Turkey’s Saturday Mothers reclaim right to bury their loved ones

The Saturday Mothers met for the 710th time on Saturday to demand justice and truth for their children and relatives who disappeared while in the custody of Turkish security forces.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), the Saturday Mothers staged a demonstration despite a police blockade. Hasan Karakoç, who was a participant, said: “We are reclaiming our right to bury our dead, but we get no answers from the authorities. Mothers want a grave for their children that they can visit.”

The Saturday Mothers, who have been fighting for 23 years for the truth about the fate of their relatives who disappeared while in detention to be revealed and for the perpetrators to be punished, had to meet in front of the Human Rights Association (İHD) İstanbul branch as both sides of Çukur Çeşme Street were cut off and blocked by police.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Hüda Kaya and Oya Ersoy, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Şeker and actress Nur Sürer took part in this week’s demonstration supported by a large number of political parties and democratic organizations.

During the gathering on Saturday, Nazım Gülmez was commemorated. Sixty-one-year-old Gülmez disappeared on October 14, 1994, after being taken into custody in the Hozat district of Tunceli (Dersim).

Gülmez, a father of nine, lived in the village of Taşıtlı. He was working in agriculture and animal husbandry and was much loved. On October 14, 1994 soldiers from the Bolu Commando Brigade, during an operation they were carrying out in the region, entered the village of Taşıtlı. The soldiers forced Gülmez from his home, telling him he should guide them in the fields.

Thus, Gülmez and three other villagers were taken away. The village headman and all the villagers confirmed the incidents. The three people who had been taken with Gülmez were released after a while and returned to the village. Gülmez never returned.

The response of military authorities to his wife, Garip Gülmez, had been, “Soldiers took him to Tunceli and left him there.” So the Gülmez family applied to the Hozat Public Prosecutor’s Office, but no progress was made in the case due to a lack of diligence on the part of the prosecutors.

Emphasizing that they would continue to be the voice of Nazım Gülmez, human rights defender Sebla Arcan said, “Garip Gülmez was unable to come here today because she is in intensive care.”

Arcan demanded an end to the impunity of those responsible for the disappearance of so many people.

Meanwhile, Fatma Kırbayır told the story of her brother, Cemil Kırbayır, who disappeared while in custody in 1980. “My mother even met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to find her son. He promised her they  would find her son, but years went by and not a word was said. The state accepted that he was lost while in custody. I’m calling on the president: Give me the body of my brother. He has no grave.”

Rıdvan Karakoç’s brother Hasan Karakoç also recalled the story of his brother, who disappeared after being taken into custody 23 years ago. “We have been here every week to demand truth and justice for our loved ones. We are here to reclaim the right to bury our dead.”

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