Turkish police break up landmark Saturday Mothers' protest

Turkish police have forcefully broken up a regular protest by mothers remembering relatives who disappeared during violence in the 1980s and 1990s
Sunday, 26 August 2018 18:43

Istanbul police on Saturday broke up a regular demonstration by Turkish mothers remembering the disappearance of relatives in the 1980s and 1990s.

Police used water cannon and tear gas and detained about 50 people, including veteran protester Emine Ocak, 82, and photographs showed being led away by two female officers.

The mothers, known as the Saturday Mothers (Cumatesi Anneleri in Turkish), have met on Saturdays since May 27, 1995 in Taksim, Istanbul, to remember relatives who disappeared at the hands of the state. This was to be their 700th protest.

The district governor said the sit-in was prohibited because the event was publicized on social media with alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, which has waged a decades-long armed conflict in Turkey. Tens of thousands have lost their lives in the conflict that began in 1984 and continues to this day.

The Saturday Mothers group were unable to hold their protests for a decade from 1999 to 2009 due to repeated police interventions but they then resumed. Police have since maintained a watchful presence at the protests but this was the first time in recent years the protest has been broken up.

All of those detained - including Ocak, whose son Hasan disappeared after being detained in 1995 - were released after giving statements to the police, Turkish lawyer Efkan Bolaç said.