EU reacts to Turkish gov’t ban on Saturday Mothers, says freedom of assembly key pillar of democracy

The European Union (EU) reacted on Friday to Turkish government’s ban on the peaceful vigil by Saturday Mothers, who are relatives of people who have been forcibly disappeared while in the custody of Turkish security forces, and warned that “Freedom of assembly is a key pillar of democracy.”

Replying a question on the ban targeting the Saturday Mothers, an EU Spokesperson stated on Friday that “We are following the situation closely after the ban of the ‘Saturday Mothers’ demonstration. The sudden decision to ban what have always been peaceful demonstrations is a negative development.”

Reminding that “Freedom of assembly is a key pillar of democracy,” the EU Spokesperson said that “It is important for Turkey to pursue and further deepen its close cooperation with the Council of Europe and its bodies and to address their concerns and recommendations.”

The Spokesperson also added that “It is encouraging that the Turkish government’s Reform Action Group started meeting again and this would be an important area for it to address.”

On August 25, 2018, police in İstanbul attacked the peaceful vigil by relatives of people who have been forcibly disappeared while in the custody of Turkish security forces. The weekly peaceful vigil in Galatasaray Square was due to mark the 700th week of the protest since 1995 by the Saturday Mothers.

The Saturday Mothers have been demanding justice and the truth about the disappearances of their beloved while in custody. Those responsible for the disappearances have not been brought to justice.

Police used tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets on those assembled, including relatives of people forcibly disappeared, human rights defenders and parliamentarians, as well as journalists covering the vigil. Some 47 participants were ill-treated and detained, included some elderly mothers.

On Tuesday Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu hinted that the demonstrations, which have been taking place for 23 years, would be prohibited. The next day, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik confirmed the ban.

“Motherhood has no politics and no ideology. We are forced to take these precautions after events [last weekend]. This is not a stance against these mothers … but a response to terrorist groups openly taking advantage of this space,” Çelik claimed on Wednesday.

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