Turkish police have detained 13 people, including activists and family members of the Saturday Mothers, during the group’s 947th 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 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 Ümit Efe, the İstanbul representative of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV); Eren Keskin, chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İHD); and Musa Piroğlu, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) from İstanbul.
According to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) at least 13 people were detained. Journalists were forcibly removed from the area and prevented from filming.
Despite the Constitutional Court's two separate judgments which ordered respect to be shown to their protests, the police prevented #SaturdayMothers/People once again from going back to the Galatasaray Square to hold their 947th vigil.
There are many detentions. pic.twitter.com/ZpdQ5b1RYs
— MLSA (@mlsaturkey) May 20, 2023
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 broke 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.