Turkey’s Saturday Mothers meet for 649th time to demand justice for their disappeared children

The mothers of Kurds who have disappeared in Turkey staged their weekly sit-in at Galatasaray Square on İstanbul’s İstiklal Avenue for the 694th time on Saturday to demand justice for their loved ones.

The meeting of the “Saturday Mothers” in Galatasaray Square was also attended by Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and Oya Ersoy, a deputy of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), this week’s gathering was to demand justice for Hasan Gülünay, who died in police custody on July 20, 1992.

İrfan Bilgin, whose brother Kenan Bilgin disappeared while in custody on September 12, 1994, said during a speech that “no government has heard our voice, and the files of these people cannot be closed before being resolved.”

Tanrıkulu, who also gave a speech and stated that he was in Sarajevo on July 11, 1995, a year after the Srebrenica genocide, said the families there were waging a struggle similar to that being carried out by the Saturday Mothers.

CHP deputy Tanrıkulu reminded that Turkey’s Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül was also at the Srebrenica massacre memorial and said, “Could you make the speech you made there to these mothers here?”

According to the report, HDP deputy Ersoy read this week’s statement and told the story of Hasan Gülünay.

Gülünay lived in the same neighbourhood in İstanbul as Ali Ekber Atmaca, who was murdered under torture at the Artvin Provincial Gendarmerie Command in May of 1992. Gülünay’s name came out during the torture, which is why the father of four, aged 32, was in police records.

Oya said: “Hasan Gülünay told his wife he had been followed for some time by police officers. On July 20, 1992 he left his house in Tarabya to go to work and never returned. The prosecutor’s office and the İstanbul Police Department said there was no record of Gülünay being in police custody.”

However a senior security official related to Gülünay’s family said he had been informed that Gülünay had been taken into custody after the injuries he suffered while under torture had healed. This information was made public.

At that point an undisclosed witness said he had been in interrogation at the Istanbul Police Department at the same time as Gülünay and heard him shouting: “I am Hasan Gülünay. They are trying to disappear me in custody.”

After these two statements were shared with the public, the family of Gülünay and the witness were threatened by the police.

On April 21, 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled that “the investigation related to the right to life was violated.” However, the court also stated that the case of Hasan Gülünay would be closed due to the statute of limitations.

Ersoy said: “The family of Hasan Gülünay and the society have the right to know the truth about the disappearance of Hasan while he was in custody, and this right is not subject to the statute of limitations. This case will not be closed for us until a trial in accordance to domestic law and international law takes place.”

Meanwhile, the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the relatives of disappeared people staged their weekly sit-in for the 492nd time on Saturday. Photos of the disappeared were put on the ground around the participants who this week demanded to know the fate of Ebubekir Aras, who was taken into custody in Cizre (Şırnak) and never seen again.

İHD Diyarbakır branch chair Abdullah Zeytun recalled the thousands of unsolved murders committed in the Kurdish region of Turkey and said: “These murders were committed by state forces and paramilitary forces. At the time we learned they were being carried out by a force called JİTEM. This force has yet to be brought to justice. None of the murders committed in the ’90s has been accounted for.”

Following Zeytun, Orhan Örhan, a member of the İHD’s Diyarbakır Branch Commission for the Disappeared, told the story of Ebubekir Aras. On July 13, 1994 at 5 a.m., Aras, who was working as a watchman at a truck garage, was taken into custody during a raid by security forces. That same day, another five people were taken into custody at different locations.

A week later, everyone except Ebubekir Aras was released. Aras’s brother, Abdurrahman, went to the Cizre Police Department to ask about his brother. The police officer in charge told Abdurrahman Aras that in fact Ebubekir Aras had been released in the evening of the day he was arrested.

Ebubekir’s brother Abdurrahman Aras then talked to the five people who had been detained on the same day and released a week later. They said they were going to be tortured by electrical shock but since Ebubekir Aras had died under torture, the police decided to stop.

When Aras told the Cizre Police Department about the witnesses, he was told once again that his brother was alive and that he should wait.

The police department gave a document to Abdurrahman about his brother’s detention and release. The date of detention was stated as July 17, 1994 at 5 a.m. The release date was the same day, at 8:30 p.m.

The signature was in fact a fingerprint as Ebubekir Aras could not read nor write, which lead to the conclusion of his family that the facts didn’t add up and that truth was not being told. Despite all efforts, Ebubekir Aras’ fate remains unknown.

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