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 © HAYRI TUNC/AFP/Getty Images

25th October 2022, 07:39:51 UTC

Saturday Mothers/People, relatives of victims of enforced disappearances, some of whom are in their 80s have been holding a peaceful weekly vigil on Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square, protesting the enforced disappearance of their loved ones and demanding justice since 1995.

For the past 27 years, the Saturday Mothers have tirelessly sought truth and justice for their loved ones who were forcibly disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s.

On their 700th protest, on 25 August 2018, police in Istanbul used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a peaceful gathering of hundreds of people.

Dozens were detained on the day, 46 people including some of the relatives were unjustly indicted for attending an ‘unlawful protest’ under the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations. The unfair, baseless trial is ongoing as is the ban on Galatasaray Square which has been surrounded by police barriers and occupied by riot police ever since.

This August, the 900th peaceful vigil was prevented by riot police. Police handcuffed and detained human rights defenders, and relatives from the Saturday Mothers/People group.

This is only the latest shameful example of the state authorities’ intolerance of lawful, peaceful dissent. Time and again, the Saturday Mothers/People have been met with brutal crackdowns and even prosecutions for taking part in peaceful vigils. Turkish authorities have never provided a valid justification for their spiteful, arbitrary and unlawful denial of the right to exercise freedom of expression and assembly.

On 11 November, after over five years of being banned, 10 representatives of Saturday Mothers/People, a group of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances and other human rights defenders, were allowed to read a short statement in front of the Galatasaray High School near the Galatasaray Square in Istanbul, Türkiye. The square is a place of symbolic importance to the group. This positive development is welcome but still falls short of the full implementation of the Constitutional Court decisions that concluded the applicants’ rights to freedom of peaceful assembly had been violated and that the authorities should prevent the reoccurrence of the violation.

Call on the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Minister of Interior to lift the ban on the Saturday Mothers/People’s vigil, and ensure they are able to exercise their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and call for an effective, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the victims of enforced disappearance.

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