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Vigil for disappeared activists in Turkey marks 1,000th week

May 25, 2024 08:35 PM

 

Istanbul, May 25 || A weekly vigil to raise awareness about forcibly disappeared activists during the 1980s and 90s in Turkey marked its 1,000th gathering in central Istanbul on Saturday.

Protesters laid down red carnations and held photos of missing people on Istanbul's İstiklal shopping street. Several hundred people took part in the vigil, according to organisers.

"We want justice for our children. Their murderers should be found," said one participant. Events were also held in other cities, Turkish media reported.

Relatives and family members of those who disappeared after the 1980 military coup and during the 1990s in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south-east have been gathering in Istanbul since 1995.

The group, known as the Saturday Mothers, meets in Galatasaray Square every Saturday for a peaceful vigil. They demand an independent investigation into the fate of their missing children and relatives.

Some mothers and relatives passed away before finding any answers, the latest of them being Fatma Kırbayır earlier this month. She was the sister of Cemil Kırbayır, missing since the 1980 coup, local media reported.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) this week issued a parliamentary question for a wider investigation into the events.

The authorities recognize the "Saturday Mothers' pain" and a wider gathering will be allowed on Saturday, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) group chair Özlem Zengin told parliament on Thursday.

The vigil was banned in 2018 when police used force and tear gas to disperse participants.

It returned in November 2023, a year after the country's Constitutional Court ruled the blockade was a violation of rights.

The activists say they never heard from their relatives after reported abductions, police detention or extrajudicial killings.

The allegations coincided with heavy clashes between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the 1980s and 90s.

Nearly 1,400 people went missing between 1980 and 2001, according to Turkey's Human Rights Association (İHD).

Exact numbers are unknown, but international rights groups have called for a probe into the allegations, including torture and mass graves in south-eastern Turkey.

 

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