On 27 May 1995, families of those, who were forcibly disappeared, and human-rights activists launched a peaceful protest against the practice of systematic disappearance in Turkey during the times after the 1980 coup and throughout the 1990s, especially in the Kurdish regions under the state of emergency. Since then, they continued to gather in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square, every Saturday at 12:00 pm. The group came to be known as the “Saturday Mothers”, inspired by their Argentinean counterparts, Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo. By holding weekly sit-ins and carrying the photos of their disappeared husbands, brothers and sons, mothers and relatives have maintained the longest event of civil disobedience in the country against an official mentality that has utilized the “method” of enforced disappearance to –literally- eliminate opposition and instill a culture of fear in society. The Mothers, whose loved ones have been arbitrarily taken under custody by security forces and then disappeared, have adopted the motto: “We want our disappeared loved ones!” The Mothers and activists have come together for the 600th time on September 24, 2016 with the following demands: unclose the fate of the disappeared; put the perpetrators on trial; never let anyone be disappeared again.
One of the participants of the protest, Besna Tosun, daughter of Fehmi Tosun who was taken into custody in 1995 and disappeared afterwards, explained her feelings: “The first time you come here, it’s just about wanting your father back. But now, this is not enough anymore. If I would be told today that he is out somewhere there and I could simply go and get him, that wouldn’t suffice. He is not more precious than anyone else, whose picture I’ve been carrying here for years. Even if all the disappeared would have been found, it wouldn’t suffice. Anybody who is guilty in this process has to give an account of what has been happened. That is, what is necessary.”
The Turkish state has been accused by human rights organizations and activists of not being in the position to investigate its “own” crimes. According to numbers obtained by civil organizations, the cases number several hundreds. Only a limited number of cases was ever brought to court. In the short blossom of democratic reform in the 2000s, even then Prime Minister Erdoğan visited the mothers and the government initiated some trials against security officers involved in the disappearances. However this period was short lived and with the AKP making amends with the military in the last two years, these cases were never concluded. Many dragged on for so long, that the judicial limits for a court case were exceeded and hence the cases were closed. In other cases the court decided that there was no sufficient reason to open a trial.
Hence, the mothers are calling for an independent commission endowed with sufficient resources and authorized to hold an effective investigation. The call also stressed that Turkey has to sign the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance for the effective implementation of an anti-disappearance policy.