Turkish police on Tuesday broke up a protest organized by the Saturday Mothers, a group of activists and relatives seeking the whereabouts of loved ones who disappeared while in police custody in Turkey in the 1990s, and briefly detained 12 people, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.
The Saturday Mothers gathered at a cemetery for orphans in the Altınşehir neighborhood of İstanbul to make a press statement on the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared, marked every Aug. 30.
The participants were met by the police at the entrance to the cemetery, making it impossible for them to issue their press statement. When the protestors refused to leave the area, police officers used force to disperse them and detained 12 people including some mothers whose children were victims of the enforced disappearances as well as human rights activists.
The detainees were released after police questioning.
The Turkey branch of Amnesty International had called for the immediate release of the protestors in a tweet on Tuesday. The rights group said the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a human right.
Cumartesi Anneleri'nin Altınşehir Kimsesizler Mezarlığı’nda yapmak istedikleri basın açıklaması engelleniyor.
Barışçıl protesto bir insan hakkıdır.#ProtestoHakkınıKoru https://t.co/Zd64jIDztZ
— Amnesty Turkey (@aforgutu) August 30, 2022
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.
Some of the protestors were later indicted for violating Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations by “refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force.”
Since the 700th gathering, the group has been holding their demonstrations in front of the Human Rights Organization’s (İHD) İstanbul office.