Turkish government, opposition in a row over Saturday Mothers demonstrations

Turkish government, opposition in a row over Saturday Mothers demonstrations

ISTANBUL/ANKARA
Turkish government, opposition in a row over Saturday Mothers demonstrations

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu

The police intervention of the Saturday Mothers’ 700th week of sit-in protests to mark forced disappearances has attracted criticism from the opposition, as Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu defended the ban on the gathering stating the group has been “exploited by terrorist organizations.”

“Should we turn a blind eye to the exploitation of motherhood by a terrorist organization?” Soylu said during an event in Ankara on Aug. 27.

The Saturday Mothers’ call for a gathering in support of the 700th week of the sit-in-protests in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square on Aug. 25 was banned by local authorities on the ground that the supporters have alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Following the ban, the police had used tear gas and force to disperse supporters and the Saturday Mothers, who arrived at the square on the same day.

The relatives of the people who were subjected to forced disappearance under state supervision have been gathering at the same place in Istanbul every week since 1995 to demand justice.

“They try to create victimization out of the concept of motherhood in order to mask terrorism and polarize society,” Soylu said after the police intervention had attracted fierce criticisms.

“This nation had not surrendered to the heads of these people hundred of years ago and they will not surrender it now to their successors,” he added.

The latest measures against the event marks a dramatic shift from the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) past rhetoric as the party’s senior figures had previously hailed the group.

In 2011, the prime minister of the time, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government held a meeting with the prominent members of the Saturday Mothers, including Hüseyin Ocak, the brother of Hasan Ocak, whose disappearance had initiated the sit-in protests in 1995.

The “Saturday People,” including the relatives of the disappeared, supporters and human rights associations responded to Soylu’s comments with a press conference on Aug. 27, stating that the minister’s statement “aimed to cast a shadow on the legitimacy of the struggle of the Saturday Mothers.”

“Soylu’s statement aims to distort the facts, defame the legitimacy of the Saturday sittings and cover the state’s responsibility. It is a political intervention to the ongoing trials [of disappearances],” the joint statement read.

“The duty of [the minister] should listen to us, not disperse us,” said Mikail Kırbayır, the brother of the disappeared Cemil Kırbayır, at the press conference.

“No one is abusing me, it is my heart that has brought me here. What we want are not some goods but our blood, our sons and children,”said Hanife Yıldız, the mother of the dissappeared Murat Yıldız.

Opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ahmet Şık, who was among the supporters of the protest, recalled the AKP’s meeting with the Saturday Mothers in 2011.

“This country has not surrendered to the nylon heroes who are consistent with their cruelty and advocacy and are trying to fill the gap between the past and present with their interests when it comes to principles,” Şık posted on his official Twitter account on Aug. 27.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu also responded to Soylu on his official Twitter account.

“Continuity in the state is essential. The deep state, which we have been endowed with and have made deeper, has committed murders of whose perpetrators are unknown and the disappearance of people by force, but no one can ask for an account. Even if they are a mother, they cannot mourn,” Tanrıkulu said.

Saturday Mothers, protests, demonstrations