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EVERY Saturday since May 1995, the Saturday Mothers have been holding sit-ins at Galatasaray — one of the most popular districts in Istanbul — Turkey to demand an end to the silence about enforced disappearances in police custody from the 1980s and ‘90s.
What started out with 30 members, the Saturday Mothers, which is the longest lasting peaceful protest in Turkey's history, now sees hundreds of supporters join them in carrying the photographs of those who disappeared in detention.
Only around 450 cases have been resolved out of the thousands who were taken into detention by security forces and had their existence denied by official authorities.
The group is demanding that the state reveals the fate of those who were displaced, return of the victims’ bodies to their families, prosecution of those involved and lifting of the statute of limitations so that all of the guilty can be brought to justice.
Next weekend will mark the 700th sit-in and campaigners from Britain will be gathering in central London to show solidarity.
Day-Mer Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre chairwoman Asli Gul said that those “missing” were not simply people who had “lost their way home.
“These are people who have been vanished by the state's law enforcement [forces] and have never been heard of again,” she said.
“Instead of investigating what happened to these people, the Turkish state has allowed attacks from time to time on the relatives gathered at Galatasaray.
“It is not only the duty of the relatives but the duty of all people to stand up against the mafia-like mentality of the state, which arrests and kills anyone who does not think the same way as it does.
“This is why we will be gathering in London and in cities all over Europe to mark the 700 weeks of this resistance.
“We hope to see sensitivity from all human rights organisations, political parties, community organisations, campaign groups, individuals and, especially, the trade unions in Britain to show support for this struggle by putting pressure on the Turkish state.”
Gul said that organisations in Britain could boost morale by supporting the struggle of the Saturday Mothers and visiting them in person.
“As Day-Mer we can help organise and support this work and together we can fight to get effective results,” she added.
Turkey has seen a sharp rise in abusive detention practices since the failed coup in 2016 and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to hold overall authority over legislation making it impossible to seek justice.
The European Court of Human Rights has judged many times that Turkey has violated the rights to liberty and security and often the right to life of the victims.
Activists say that the reason why the demands of the Saturday Mothers have not been met thus far is due to the “absence of the necessary political will” within the institutions of the state.
London's vigil will begin at 12 noon at Trafalgar Square on Saturday 25 2018
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