Many detained in renewed police attack on Saturday Mothers in Istanbul

The Saturday Mothers, who have been taking to the streets for their relatives who have disappeared in state custody for decades, were attacked by the police again on the 970th week of their action.

Turkish police have again attacked the Saturday Mothers in Istanbul. The relatives of people who have disappeared in state custody and their supporters wanted to demand clarification and the punishment of the perpetrators for the 970th time today in the central Galatasary Square, and around twenty people were taken into custody. The rally site was besieged by security forces in advance, as it is every Saturday. When the relatives of the disappeared, accompanied by human rights activists, the HEDEP MP Kezban Konukçu and the HDP politician Musa Piroğlu approached the square, they were surrounded by the police and handcuffed and taken away using force. Journalists were pushed back by the police and prevented from doing their work. HEDEP MP Kezban Konukçu was also forcibly pushed back when she tried to document the police operation.

The Human Rights Association (IHD) has shown solidarity with the Saturday Mothers in several cities in Turkey and publicly read out the statement that was prevented by force in Istanbul. Every week, the Saturday Mothers focus on a case of disappeared persons in state custody. This week, the case of Huseyin Toraman was presented. Toraman was abducted in Istanbul in 1991 and has been missing since. The IHD branches in Urfa, Van, Adana, Antalya and Izmir demanded a complete investigation of the case and the conviction of those responsible.

For over 28 years, the Saturday Mothers have been demanding information about their relatives who have disappeared in police custody. It is the longest-running civil disobedience action in Turkey, which began on 27 May 1995 with the sit-in by the family of Hasan Ocak, a teacher murdered by torture. An estimated 17,000 people, including journalists, politicians and human rights activists, "disappeared" in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s, mainly in the Kurdish regions. Often their bodies were dumped in secret mass graves on military bases, but also in rubbish dumps or in well shafts. Neither the police nor the judiciary have taken any measures to investigate the “unsolved murders”.

Since the 2013 resistance in Istanbul's Gezi Park, protests have been banned in the square in front of the Galatasaray High School. Only the Saturday Mothers were allowed to continue protesting here. But with the accusation of "closeness to the PKK", the initiative's 700th vigil was banned and violently dispersed on 25 August 2018. Since then, all protests in Galatasaray Square have been banned. But this is contrary to the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration, ruled the Turkish Constitutional Court on 22 February 2023, rejecting the ministry's objection that Saturday Mothers threatened the "protection of public order".

"Everyone has the right to take part in unarmed and peaceful assemblies and demonstrations without prior permission," says Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution, which the security authorities violated with their banning order for the forcibly dispersed Saturday Mothers' action in August 2018 and all subsequent ones. The blockade of the square is thus invalid, according to the ruling of the constitutional complaint, with which Maside Ocak Kışlakçı was successful. However, the Turkish Interior Ministry and the Istanbul authorities ignore the ruling and have been violently attacking the Saturday Mothers and their supporters every week for months.