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TURKEY’S Saturday Mothers campaign group will defy a government ban against their protests today in Istanbul — a week after violent attacks by armed police saw mass arrests and the use of rubber bullets.
The group made the announcement at a press conference at the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), vowing not to give up their quest for justice for the thousands of Turkey’s disappeared.
“We, as the relatives of the missing ones, will be at Galatasaray Square in our 701st week, like every Saturday.
“We will not give up searching for our missing ones and demanding justice until the fate of the last person who disappeared in the custody of security officers is explained and delivered to his or her family and all perpetrators are brought to justice,” it said in a statement.
Opposition party HDP MPs Garo Paylan, Serpil Kemalbay, Murat Cepni, Huda Kaya, Zuleyha Gulum and Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu were present along with Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Sezgin Tanrikulu.
Last week’s 700th vigil was attacked by armed police after being banned by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who accused the event of being “exploited by terrorists.”
Spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Huseyin Celik confirmed yesterday that further events by the Saturday Mothers were banned, a move IHD branded “provocative.”
The association vowed to stand by the protesters, accusing the government of attempting to create an uproar “over the Saturday Mothers who are embraced by a large section of society.
“We as human rights defenders will always continue to be the voice and breath of the Saturday Mothers’ demand for truth and justice,” it said in a statement.
The Saturday Mothers have held weekly protests in Istanbul since May 1995. Influenced by Argentina’s Plaza de Mayo protests it is one of the world’s longest-running civil disobedience campaigns.
The families of those who disappeared in police custody demanded an urgent meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying no progress has been made in their quest for truth and justice.
Meside Ocak, a relative of one of the disappeared explained the group’s four demands: “Explain what happened to the people who disappeared in custody. Put an end to impunity, which protects the perpetrators of the crime of disappearance in custody. Let no one disappear in custody again.
“Turkey should sign and implement the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.”
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