The current Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu officially banned the gathering on August 25, 2018. However, the mothers did not back down but pushed their way into the plaza only to be dragged by the hair, beaten and attacked before being detained by the police. It was the 700th week of their first gathering. Due to relentless government pressure the mothers moved their gathering to the street where the Human Rights Association resides. After the Coronavirus pandemic, the gatherings are being done on social media. The quarter century of protest now continues digitally.
Seeking their disappeared loved ones in the hands of the government for quarter of a century, “Saturday Mothers” gathered for a vigil every Saturday like they have for the last 25 years at the Galatasaray Square in Istanbul, Turkey.
1995’s were the dark ages for Turkey. It was only the continuation of the military fascist coup that had taken over the country in 1980. With the US backed, pro-capitalist military regime, millions had been tortured, hundreds killed, even under age children were hanged after raising their ages with a so-called court decree. The crimes these people had committed? Being a leftist and wanting a better, democratic and a free country. Or being from an ethnical background, Kurdish, which the ruling racist, nationalist Turkish regime considers a threat.
The oppressive military regime of 1980 continued in its pretense to be a democratic country in the 1990’s with state sanctioned gangs, paramilitary thugs, and the open and secret state security forces acting together to suppress ethnicities, opposition, criticism and other religions once and for all in the hopes of establishing a capitalist, pure Turkish blood formed country where no other voice could ever be raised. Even though the 1990’s were the dark ages, it is obvious that nothing has changed since then in Turkey.
Full integration into the imperialist camp brings oppression
After the pro-US coup the disappearances started to happen all over the country, but mostly it targeted the Kurds. Any Kurdish dissent was considered an attack to the existence of the “last standing Turkish motherland” and was attacked viciously by the Turkish government. Behind the scenes, the new rulers who had been given the green light by the military dictators Turkey was going through the last steps of fully integrating into the capitalist-imperialist system and shedding its last remnants of institutions that were not privatized, sold to foreign conglomerates or to the highest bidder. Elements of a social state were being dismantled and the full force of selling any state-government enterprises with pennies on the dollar was in full swing. Neo-liberalism had reached Turkey with an iron fist.
Because of these undergoing fundamental changes, the system could not tolerate any dissent during the critical transformative years. However, the ruling Turkish classes considered even being of another ethnic background to be a threat which translated into harsh oppression especially in the Kurdish areas in Turkey.
Tens of thousands disappeared in those years, many with the full knowledge and participation of the government forces.
Mothers seek their disappeared loved ones
However, a few Mothers of the Disappeared, the Saturday Mothers, very similar to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo of Argentina where the mothers of the disappeared under the fascist regime of the Argentinian junta demanded a closure to the disappearance of their loved ones, started a vigil on May 27, 1995. It was only four families that showed up the first time. Soon the mothers who gathered at the plaza on every Saturday grew to become hundreds. After two weeks of the first vigil there were 30 families with photographs of their disappeared sitting at the plaza.
Meeting silently in a public square in front of a French rooted high school at the city center, the mothers held the pictures of their disappeared sons’, daughters’, husbands’ or their relatives’ photographs demanding justice.
The Turkish government, of course, banned the gathering many times, attacked, beat up, dragged and even set attack dogs on the mothers. The Saturday Mothers never gave up.
25th anniversary of the vigil
On the anniversary of the first gathering on May 27, 1995, the mothers yesterday were again at the plaza. They defied the government ban on these gatherings and dropped red carnations to commemorate their disappeared loved ones. One participant mother said, “We came here 25 years ago. We lost our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers here. We are never going to stop looking for our lost loved ones.”
The government sent its full forces to disperse the mothers who now had gained international recognition. The heavy police presence even before the mothers approached the square, armed police trucks, plain clothes police arresting even bystanders, attack dogs and shameless and ruthless beating of older women took a toll. Seeing they were not even allowed to enter the plaza individually, the mothers postponed their presence on March 13, 1999.
They have tried again to start the protests but it was brutally prevented every time. On January 31, 2009, the mothers were again able to gain access to the plaza and their protest continued.
The current Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu officially banned the gathering on August 25, 2018. However, the mothers did not back down but pushed their way into the plaza only to be dragged by the hair, beaten and attacked before being detained by the police. It was the 700th week of their first gathering.
Due to relentless government pressure the mothers moved their gathering to the street where the Human Rights Association resides. After the Coronavirus pandemic, the gatherings are being done on social media. The quarter century of protest now continues digitally.
International Committee Against Disappearances ICAD forms
When the mothers from Turkey met with their Argentinian counterparts in 1996, the International Committee Against Disappearances (ICAD) was formed. Calling on the similarities of how and why the victims disappear under government detention and persecution, the committee decided to work together to find the victims and hold the governments accountable. The committee identified that the inequality bred injustice, and the disappearances was the way the dictatorial, fascistic governments dealt with the social problems caused by inequalities.
“Disappearances happen the most in places where there is a huge contradiction between the poor and the rich, and where the population creates an effective organized resistance. That’s where most of the political killings, tortures, and disappearances happen. Disappearances were quite common under the military fascist dictatorships in Latin-America. Like in Argentina, where the state disappeared 30.000 people, or in El Salvador, Guatemala, or countries like Indonesia and South-Africa. Now it happens often in countries like the Philippines, Turkey, Kurdistan, Egypt, in Sri Lanka against Tamil activists, and in India where the Indian state is waging a war against its indigenous population”
reports Massaljin, a Netherlands based site after an interview with the members of the ICAD in 2014.
The so-called progressive opposition nationalistic party IYI’s famous women leader Meral Akşener was the interior minister of Turkey during those tumultuous years and is still being charged with disappearing more than 17,500 people under her watch by the families of the disappeared. She worked closely with the street gangsters, Mafioso paramilitary drug cartels who had members at all levels of the security apparatus and the police forces to disappear writers, lawyers, journalists, peace activists, men, women, youth all under the pretense of “fighting terrorism.” She is now paraded as an advocate of democracy while still heading the same nationalist, racist goons in her party.
Massaljin explains the formation of the committee as:
“ICAD was founded in 1996 and has chapters in Turkey, France, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. ICAD was founded after the disappearance of Hasan Ocak, a Turkish activist who disappeared March 21st, 1995. 2 months after his body was found, several human rights organizations in Turkey decided to set up an international organization against disappearances. At the first conference there were representatives of human rights groups and family members of the disappeared from Argentina, Sri Lanka, India, Kurdistan and other countries. There ICAD decided to organize the “International Week Against Disappearances” every second half of May, the time when Hasan Ocak’s body was found.”
Sendika.org news (M.B.)