A group known as the Saturday mothers laid carnations at the banned Galatasaray Square in Istanbul on the recent 24th anniversary of their protests, surrounded by police barricades, T24 news portal reported on Monday.
The Saturday Mothers have gathered at the square for sit-ins every week since 27 May 1995, except for a short cessation due to political pressure. The interruptions were from 1999 to 2009, and again on their 700th gathering in August 2018 until now.
The peaceful sit-ins are in protest of the disappearance of loved ones, and the politically motivated murders that took place in Turkey during the military coup in the 1980s and the state of emergency in the 1990s.
The aim of the protests is to find the bodies or burial sites of those who went missing whilst in custody, and to demand prosecution of the perpetrators.
Also leaving photographs of their lost loved ones at the square, the mothers made a statement, saying that they will not give up the protests until every person who disappeared whilst in custody is found and their perpetrators are tried and punished.
“Once again, we showed them that we will not give up on Galatasaray, our meeting spot for our lost ones. Those who banned us from Galatasaray should know that they cannot prevent our struggle,” the Saturday Mothers emphasized.
Human rights defender, Nimet Tanrikulu, one of the activists participating in the protest on Monday, told Bianet news portal that the Galatasaray Square has “special meaning” for the mothers because the people they lost do not have memorials or graves where they can visit.
“This square, where the ones without a burial place are commemorated, bears witness to a 24-year struggle,” Tanrikulu said. She also stressed that perpetrators of the missing victims should be found and punished and that the ban on Galatasaray Square should be lifted.
Turkish authorities announced on August 25, 2018, that the governor’s office had banned the weekly gathering in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. Soon after the announcement, the mothers were faced with police violence and 47 activists were briefly detained during their 700th sit-in.
Previously, the protests were interrupted on March 13, 1999, due to heavy police intervention during the three years prior. The peaceful protests continued in 2009, after a ten-year interruption, and were prohibited again in 2018 following police intervention.
According to the Human Rights Association, an Ankara-based NGO for advancing human rights in Turkey, 792 state-forced disappearances and murders were reported in the east of Turkey between 1992 and 1996, with many more missing persons who remain unreported.