Turkey’s main opposition leader slams police violence against ‘Saturday Mothers’

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP),  said on Sunday that only a dictatorial administration would order a police attack on the Saturday Mothers, who had gathered in Galatasaray Square for the 700th time in search of their missing loved ones who had disappeared while in police custody in the 1990s.

Turkish police used excessive force to prevent the Saturday Mothers from protesting in the square as they had been doing every Saturday for half an hour for the last 23 years, with a hiatus between 1999 to 2009 due to police violence.

The Saturday Mothers protest unanswered questions about the disappearance or unsolved murder of their loved ones after being taken into custody by security forces, and the lack of justice in court.

“When I heard the news, I was deeply disappointed. What are the demands of these mothers? For 700 weeks, they have just wanted to learn where the graves of their children are,” Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters at the funeral of his former press consultant Baki Özilhan.

Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that years ago the Saturday Mothers spoke with then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who promised to find the graves of their missing relatives.

“None of those promises were kept. We have to understand these mothers. Pressuring these mothers, using violence against them… Human beings are supposed to have a conscience and morality. They have none. I am truly sorry for the mothers,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Emphasizing that such things can only occur under dictatorships, Kılıçdaroğlu said these shameful events harm Turkey’s image on the world stage.

“It is the state’s duty to find those who murdered the children of these mothers. Not only have you not found them, you also put pressure on the mothers and try to suppress them through violence. For 700 weeks, these mothers did not hurt anybody even though they were justified in their demands. They just want justice. They just want to know who murdered their children,” Kılıçdaroğlu underlined.

Meanwhile, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has defended a violent police intervention on Saturday against the Saturday Mothers, according to Cumhuriyet newspaper on Monday.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of an education conference, Soylu said that the protesters were acting as advocates of terrorist organizations and were guilty of “exploitation and deceit.”  “It is obvious what they are trying to do,” he said and claimed that “They are using the concept of motherhood to create the impression of victimhood and working to polarize society.”

He added that the authorities would not allow the protest, held regularly for years in İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square, to give legitimacy to terrorist organizations.

Back In 2011, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was then prime minister, expressed solidarity with the Saturday Mothers, saying that he would, “soothe their sorrows,” while his wife Emine Erdoğan also said that she “shared their pain”, comments that Soylu criticised at the time. Erdoğan is yet to comment on the banning of the protest and subsequent violence.

Also on Monday, the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) have released a statement condemning the police attack on the Saturday Mothers.

“We are in shame and confusion… An 82-year-old mother who has been participating in the sit-in in Galatasaray for 23 years to ask for the fate of those who have been forcibly disappeared while in custody, has been taken into custody together with another score of people,” said İHD and TİHV in a joint statement.

The statement added that “We are embarrassed because the police tried to arrest Emine Ocak. We value liberty, equality, justice and peace based on human dignity”. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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