Preventing a sit-in of the Saturday Mothers at İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square, with the protest now in its 701st week, Turkish police blocked the entrance to İstiklal Street at numerous checkpoints on Saturday.
As the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has banned the vigil of the Saturday Mothers marking the enforced disappearances of hundreds of people in the last decades, the group confronted the Turkish police barricade at Galatasaray Square. The police closed all roads leading to the square.
According to a report by Bianet, a large number of police and anti-riot vehicles were deployed on İstanbul’s popular İstiklal Street. Since police refused to let anyone including journalists into the square, they gathered in front of the Human Rights Association (İHD) building on İstiklal Street.
Slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink’s widow Rakel Dink, his son Arat Dink, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies Hüda Kaya, Ahmet Şık, Murat Çepni and Garo Paylan, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Ali Şeker, Orhan Satın and Sezgin Tanrıkulu and CHP İstanbul branch Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu were among those gathered in front of the İHD building.
The mass gathering started marching towards Galatasaray Square with carnations in their hands and photos of relatives they lost on their chests without chanting slogans. However, police stopped the group. Although the deputies spoke to the authorities, the police said the rally would not be permitted. The group sat in the street where the police stopped them.
Rights defenders and relatives of the people who were disappeared in custody read out a statement despite the police warning, after which they ended the sit-in and returned to İHD headquarters.
The statement read out by Maside Ocak said: “We have been looking for our beloved ones, who were disappeared in custody, for 701 weeks, and we call on officials to account for it. We are at Galatasaray because the whereabouts of our missing people haven’t been explained and the perpetrators haven’t been punished. The graves of the missing are still hidden.”
The Saturday Mothers asked also what happened to Mehmet Ertak, who was working in a coal mine on August 20, 1982, in Şırnak province.
On Saturday, the İHD confirmed that the Diyarbakır Governor’s Office also banned the weekly protest they hold together with relatives of the disappeared people. “The event at Koşuyolu Park was ‘banned’ by the governor of the city. Police have closed off all roads to the park,” read a statement released by the İHD.
Police intervened in the 700th rally of the Saturday Mothers and detained 47 people last week. Making a statement on August 30, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said, “We will not allow terrorism propaganda to be carried out by abusing mothers’ sufferings and some types of activities to be engaged in any longer. That area will not be used for such a purpose from now on.”
Meanwhile, the İstanbul 3rd High Criminal Court ruled to confiscate publicity materials prepared by the HDP for Turkey’s national World Peace Day rally on September 1. The court ruling to confiscate publicity materials for the rally was published just a day before the rally.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office justified the decision, claiming that statements such as “We won’t give up on peace, freedom and democracy” are “provocative statements” promoting “hatred and hostility.”
In line with the request of the prosecutor, the İstanbul 3rd Criminal Court ruled that “propaganda for the organization” had been disseminated. The HDP was listed in the ruling as the “suspect.”
Police use excessive meassures against #SaturdayMothers, aka Turkey's Mothers of Plaza De Mayo, who were to stage a vigil. They demand justice for their loved ones — victims of forced disappearances back in 90s. The vigil banned. pic.twitter.com/1mE25KY6Es
— Vocal Europe (@thevocaleurope) September 1, 2018