Saturday Mothers took to the streets for the 971st time this week

The Saturday Mothers have been taking to the streets for their relatives who have disappeared in state custody for decades, demanding clarification and the punishment of the perpetrators for the 971st time today.

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.

The Saturday Mothers and their supporters faced a renewed obstruction and siege by the police on the 971st week of their action, while journalists were pushed back and prevented from doing their work.

The resilience of the human rights defenders enabled them to overcome the police blockade and leave carnations at Galatasaray Square, after which they left the scene. The group then made a statement to the press at the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD).