Mothers of the disappeared in Turkey gather for 500th time in Istanbul

Mothers of the disappeared in Turkey gather for 500th time in Istanbul

Mothers of the disappeared in Turkey gather for 500th time in Istanbul

The Saturday Mothers' weekly demonstration witnessed an even larger crowd on Oct. 25. DHA photo

The mothers of people who have disappeared mainly at the hands of the state in recent decades, known as the “Saturday Mothers,” held their 500th meeting on Oct. 25.

The group first started gathering at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district in the mid-1990s. The landmark gathering on Oct. 25 attracted a particularly large crowd, including intellectuals and a number of politicians. 

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an Argentine group of mothers demanding justice for their children killed during the country's Dirty War and who served as an inspiration for the Saturday Mothers, sent a message of solidarity to the Istanbul gathering, saying, "We are watching with admiration; [the Saturday Mothers] will be victorious in the end."

The landmark meeting also came amid calls for solidarity from the Scholars for Peace initiative.

The initiative, which brings together over 150 scholars from 50 universities, published a statement in solidarity with the Saturday Mothers and called for attendance ahead of the rally.

“Neither past administrations nor the current one have investigated or punished the individuals responsible for the loss of hundreds of people. As if this weren’t enough, some of those responsible have even advanced and been promoted in their ‘careers,’” read the statement.

Melda Onur, an MP for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), caused a stir after posting on her Twitter account that Mesut Yılmaz, a former prime minister and a party leader in 1990s, was seen on the sidelines of the demonstration, also attaching a photograph of him. However, it was later understood that Yılmaz was in the area to vote for the new president of the Galatasaray sports club at Galatasaray High School, located behind where the demonstration was taking place.

At the meeting, the Saturday Mothers carried posters of missing family members who have disappeared after being detained by security forces, or who have died in unsolved murders.

Every week, two or three relatives read a message or a poem for their loved ones, while anybody who wishes can take part by holding a picture of one of the missing people.

The mothers received the fifth International Hrant Dink Award on Sept. 15, 2013, named in honor of the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was assassinated in 2007.