Saturday Mothers rebuke İYİ Party chair Akşener for ‘courageous assassinations’ remark in vigil

Saturday Mothers on Jan. 20 rebuked İYİ Party chair Meral Akşener’s recent remarks deeming the political assassinations of the past “courageous.” The group has convened for a sit-in protest each Saturday since 1995, demanding the fate of their relatives who disappeared under custody.

Ferhat Yaşar / Gazete Duvar

Saturday Mothers on Jan. 20 rebuked opposition right-wing İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener’s recent remarks that called the political assassinations of the past “courageous” during their 982nd vigil. The group has convened for a sit-in protest each Saturday since 1995, demanding the fate of their relatives who disappeared under custody.

The Human Rights Association’s (İHD) Istanbul branch manager Gülseren Yoleri began the meeting with a response to Akşener’s recent remarks. 

The association saw Akşener’s words as the confession to a crime, said Yoleri. “If these assassinations were so courageous, why are they still in the dark? Why are the criminals afraid of persecution? Why have we been fighting for 28 years? Why are we silenced each week?” 

Hanife Yıldız, whose son was disappeared in 1994 at a police station in the Aegean Province of İzmir, addressed Akşener. “I courageously brought my son to you as a mother, and you murdered him treacherously. Who are you to decide what is courageous? Enough with the Kurd hatred, the Alevi hatred, the human hatred,” the mother pleaded.

The Mothers demanded justice for Abdullah Canan on their 982nd vigil. Canan disappeared on Jan. 17, 1996, in the Eastern Province of Hakkari. Villagers found his dead body a month later, with heavy signs of torture. According to an eyewitness statement, police had stopped Canan’s car on a highway and took him into custody. However, officials denied that Canan was ever brought into custody. 

Protesters carry photographs of their disappeared relatives with carnations. 

The statement by a confessor confirmed that Canan was tortured by commando officers and shot dead by a commander upon Captain Mehmet Emin Yurdakul’s command. The family filed a criminal complaint against the involved parties. 

The court found the eyewitness and confessor statements unsatisfactory and released all defendants in 1999. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2007, ten years after the family’s application, that Canan was murdered by military personnel while under custody, and demanded the defendants’ punishment. Turkish courts have not retried the murderers.

28 years after his disappearance, protesters demanded that the government admit responsibility, remove the shield protecting killers and perpetrators alike, and ensure their punishment through a retrial. 

Canan’s son Vahap Canan was present at the protest. He responded to Akşener “as a child who lost his father in the assassinations of the 90s.” 

Son Canan said, “Those murders you deem courageous were cursed murders. Those years were cursed years… They cast a shadow on our futures.” He concluded his statement by pledging to continue the struggle for justice.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)