• Solidarity vigil TONIGHT Wednesday 20 Feb 18.00 Schuman Roundabout
• Short speech from Maside Ocak Kışlakçı, longstanding member of ‘Saturday Mothers’
A member of the ‘Saturday Mothers’ group of women in Istanbul, who have been banned by Turkish authorities from protesting in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square, will join a vigil being organised in Brussels by Amnesty International at 18.00 tonight. Maside Ocak Kışlakçı will give a speech, and activists will hold banners and flowers.
“These women have been unrelenting in their fight for justice for their disappeared relatives since the mid-1990s. It is a clear and unacceptable violation of their right to peacefully protest that they are banned from holding their vigil in Galatasaray Square. The EU must raise this unjustified ban and the other increasingly worrying restrictions of rights in the country when they meet with the Turkish Foreign Minister next month,” said Covadonga de la Campa, Director of the Amnesty International European Institutions Office.
“We are demanding justice for our loved ones. I’m asking for EU support in my long struggle to know the truth about how and why they were taken from us.”
Maside Ocak Kışlakçı, a member of the Saturday Mothers group
On 25 August last year, the 700th weekly meeting of the Saturday Mothers in Galatasaray Square in Istanbul was brutally dispersed by the police using tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. They have since been banned from holding the demonstration in the square and have instead been confined to a narrow side street every Saturday.
Maside Ocak Kışlakçı’s brother Hasan disappeared without a trace on March 21, 1995. After 58 days of intensive search and requests to the authorities, the tortured body of Hasan was found in an unmarked grave.
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Hasan is one of the many hundreds of men and women who disappeared in Turkey in the 1980s and 1990s. Partly under the impetus of the Ocak family and inspired by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, a peaceful vigil started in 1995 but following threats and intimidation, the vigils were suspended between 1998 and 2008. Since then, they have been meeting every Saturday in Galatasaray Square. The demonstrators are known as the “Saturday Mothers”. They demand to know the fate of their relatives, to find their remains and that those responsible for their deaths are brought to justice.
The ban on Saturday Mothers peaceful vigil is one example of the massive crackdown on human rights pursued by the Turkish authorities, particularly in the context of the two year-long state of emergency. Though it was lifted in July last year, most of the repressive measures that had been introduced under the state of emergency remain in force. All protests in Galatasaray Square are now banned, and the small square is surrounded by police barriers and armed officers at all times.