Saturday Mothers attacked and detained again on the 965th week of action

Despite a contrary ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court, Istanbul police have again attacked the Saturday Mothers' gathering at Galatasaray Square.

Turkish police have again attacked the Saturday Mothers at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul. The initiative wanted to make a statement for the 965th time on "disappearances" in state custody and demand punishment for the perpetrators on Istiklal Avenue. But despite a contrary ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court, the blockade of their ancestral rally site was not lifted today either. The Galatasaray Square on the central Istiklal Avenue was widely cordoned off by barriers and grids in the early morning, with patrol cars and prisoner transport vehicles parked in the side streets. Riot police were deployed with a large contingent to prevent the group from approaching the square.

On their way to Galatasaray Square, the Saturday Mothers were accompanied by numerous human rights defenders, including the Human Rights Association (IHD) President Eren Keskin, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) Representative Ümit Efe, Green Left Party MP for Şırnak, Ayşegül Doğan, Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) MP Ahmet Şık.  

The Saturday Mothers and human rights advocates were besieged by the police after starting to march to the square in two groups.  One of the groups managed to overcome the barriers and make it to the square, where they were immediately blockaded by the police on the grounds of a “ban”.

Despite the objections by the group, a number of human rights advocates were handcuffed and taken into custody. Journalists covering the demonstration were battered and dragged away from the scene.

In 1995, women in Istanbul took to the streets for the first time to draw attention to relatives who had been arrested and then disappeared. Since a large-scale attack on the Saturday Mothers ordered by the Ministry of Interior in the summer five years ago, Galatasaray Square has been a no-go zone for the Saturday Mothers. 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 the 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 by banning the Saturday Mothers' forcefully dispersed action in August 2018 and all subsequent ones. The blockade of the square is therefore invalid, said the court ruling. The Turkish Interior Ministry and the Istanbul police ignore the ruling and continue to violently crack down on Saturday Mothers.