Turkey’s Saturday Mothers mark 25 years for movement with call for justice

Saturday Mothers, one of the longest-running peaceful protest movements in the world to demand the whereabouts of their loved ones who disappeared after Turkey's 1980 military coup, marked their 25th anniversary of sit-ins on Saturday.

The group, which has been gathering in Istanbul's Galatasaray Square since 1995, released a statement on the silver anniversary of their protests, calling for an end to policies of impunity.

“We have been struggling for 25 years against impunity policies in the face of our initiatives to attain our people and justice,’’ Duvar news site quoted the statement as saying. 

The number of state-endorsed forced disappearances surged in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup and during armed conflict between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish government during the 1990s. 

The primary objectives of Turkey’s Saturday Mothers include locating the bodies of the disappeared during those periods and bringing those responsible to account.

“This culture of impunity that has been enacted by all institutions of the state in Turkey prevents access to an effective legal solution,’’ the statement said. 

The Saturday mothers urged justice for four men who disappeared while in police custody in 1995: Emin Atuğ, Hizni Bilmen, Abdulkadir Demir and Şakir Demir.

The four men, who are all related, were summoned to a police station in the town of Midyat in Turkey’s southeastern province of Mardin on May 14, 1995. Although the group was released the same day, eyewitnesses say they were forced into a military vehicle a kilometre from the station shortly afterwards and have been missing since, the statement said. 

No progress has been made on the case, with which evidence was only collected 18 years after the incident, it added.

Between 1992 and 1996, 792 state-forced disappearances and murders were reported in Turkey's Kurdish-majority east region in the conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdish insurgents, according to Turkish Human Rights Association.