Turkish police have detained 23 people, including activists and family members of the Saturday Mothers, during the group’s 945th weekly demonstration in İstanbul’s Galatasaray Square, where they were demanding justice for their loved ones who disappeared in police custody in the 1990s.
Despite previous rulings by the Constitutional Court deeming previous police interventions a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration, the police have continued to obstruct the Saturday Mothers’ protests. This week’s demonstration was also supported by Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, chair of the Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) Central Council, and lawyer Meriç Eyüpoğlu.
Reacting to the detentions the TTB tweeted, “While the Constitutional Court has determined that violations were committed by the police against the Saturday Mothers, it is unacceptable that the Saturday Mothers, who are searching for news of their disappeared for the 945th week, and human rights defenders, including our chairperson Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, are detained without any justification. We will break this blockade of lawlessness.”
The Saturday Mothers, who first gathered on May 27, 1995, in Galatasaray Square on İstanbul’s İstiklal Street and have continued meeting there every Saturday for a silent protest since then, has staged the longest-running protest Turkey has ever witnessed.
The vigils, which saw the participation of larger numbers of people on landmark dates such as the 500th and 600th week, had been held peacefully without any restrictions by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government until the 700th week in 2018, when dozens of protestors were detained after police used force to break up the protest.
The trial of the 46 people who were detained during the 700th gathering and are facing charges of “participating in unlawful meetings and marches and refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force” is ongoing.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Nov. 16, 2022 that the police intervention in the 700th-week vigil was a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration.
Since the 700th gathering, the group had been holding their demonstrations in front of the Human Rights Organization’s (İHD) İstanbul office.