Mothers of military cadets who were arrested over alleged participation in the failed 2016 coup attempt started a sit-in protest in front of the ruling AK Party (AKP)’s provincial building in Istanbul, Gazete Duvar news website reported on Monday.
Most of some 400 military school students who had been tried on coup charges have received life sentences following the failed putsch bid that targeted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AKP on July 15, 2016.
A total of 15 mothers whose children have been held in pre-trial detention for more than three years, on Monday launched a sit-in protest in front of AKP’s provincial building in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district demanding their children’s release.
Speaking to Haci Biskin from Gazete Duvar, mothers stated that police did not allow them to stage a protest or make a public statement in front of the AKP’s building.
“We want to speak to a government official. Our only demand is for our kids to be set free now. We want to be heard. We are determined to sit here until the officials come [and talk to us],” said one of the mothers Ayten Gulesci. Another mother, Fatma Oka, indicated that she participated in the protest for her arrested son, who was a student of the Turkish Air Force Academy.
“We want an official to come and answer us for this. Police officers tried to hinder us but we told them about the issue. While the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] took the children of the mothers in Diyarbakir, our children are taken by the government. We are also mothers,” Oka explained.
The mother referred to a government-supported protest of Kurdish mothers in front of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP)’s provincial building in Diyarbakir who blame the party for abducting their children to turn them into fighters for the outlawed PKK.
An armed militant group that has waged an insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish-dominated southeast since 1984, the PKK is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.
The mothers’ protest in Diyarbakir saw the attendance of Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, as well as Turkish celebrities Ahmet Yenilmez, Hulya Kocyigit, Yavuz Bingol, Cengiz Kurtoglu, Muazzez Ersoy, Gulben Ergen and Hasan Kacan last week.
The ruling AKP government blames the pro-Kurdish HDP for having connections with the outlawed PKK.
The ruling AKP and its fellow celebrities received harsh criticism on social media for their media-supported visit to the Kurdish mothers’ protest.
They were accused of applying double standards by showing interest to the Kurdish mothers while ignoring similar but anti-government protests of families, such as those of the Saturday Mothers, whose children and relatives went missing in police custody in the 1980s and 1990s.
Another protest in front of the AKP’s provincial building in the capital Ankara was prevented by police officers when protesters were detained on Monday.
Police intervened in the protest of Cemal Yildirim, an ex-public servant who was dismissed by a state-of-emergency decree issued by the ruling AKP in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
“I wanted to expose something in a time when the interior minister participates in protests in front of an HDP building. I have been in the streets [unemployed] for three years. The AKP, which has violated our rights, is setting up a game. I wanted to turn the tables [on them] for it,” Yildirim told Gazete Duvar about his protest prior to his detention.
“If they can go in front of the HDP provincial building, I see it as my God-given right to go in front of the AKP’s provincial building,” he added.
More than 125,000 academics, politicians, teachers, doctors, officials, businessmen, artists, and journalists were purged over their suspected connection with the attempted coup through decrees issued by the AKP government.