As they do every week, the Saturday Mothers, a group of women who lost their children during the fight between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK ) and Turkish security forces, gathered on the eve of Mother’s Day in front of Galatasaray High School on İstiklal Avenue in İstanbul for the 685th time to ask about the fate of their missing loved ones and to demand that those responsible be held to account.
Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May.
According to a report by the Fırat news agency (ANF), pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Hüda Kaya and some female members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also joined the protest this week, when the stories of Hüsamettin Yaman and Soner Gül, who disappeared while in police custody in 1992, were highlighted.
Speaking at the gathering, ‘Saturday Mother’ İlkbal Eren shared a message written by her and Hüsamettin Yaman’s mother, Elmas: “I have worked for 26 years and raised my son to be a decent man. But Hayrettin was not like the country wanted him to be, and he was slaughtered by the state. I have been looking for my son for 38 years. For 38 years I have been asking where my son Hayrettin Eren is. Today I cannot be with you because I am not in good health. Rest assured that I will never give up on my son.”
After this moving message, Murat Yıldız’s mother, Hanife Yıldız, spoke of her son, who disappeared in İzmir in 1995. Yıldız said: “My son has not celebrated Mothers’ Day. New elections are coming and new candidates are introducing themselves. Nobody speaks about us. We went to the trial of Berkin Elvan, and it was just a show. Those who broke our hearts should not have the courage to say ‘Happy Mothers’ Day’.”
Another Saturday Mother, Hanım Tosun, said: “Tomorrow, everyone will go to pay respect to their mothers. Some mothers have no children, some children have a mother in jail. We sit here every week and will continue to do so. We will not give the killers the opportunity to get away with the murder and disappearance of our children.”
The HDP’s Kaya also made a speech at the gathering and said: “You are treating mothers so badly. The pain is unbearable. We will not give up our fight for justice and truth.”
A press release was read by Maside Ocak, whose brother disappeared in İstanbul while in custody. “We are in Galatasaray, we, the long-time truth seekers of this land. We come here to expose the policy of disappearing people while in custody implemented by the government.
“We want to know what happened to our relatives who disappeared while in custody. We want to reach their graves. We want to appeal to everyone to not let us stay without a grave to grieve on. We appeal for justice for everyone so that all the sons of this land can live in justice and as equals.”
“In a country where evil is common, nobody’s child is safe,” Ocak said and added: “We gathered here for the 685th week to tell the story of Hüsamettin and Soner and to listen to their voice… For many years we have sought justice for them. We call on the Turkish state to shed light on what happened to these two young men and to hold those responsible for their disappearance accountable.”