MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor joins the vigil of Saturday Mothers in Istanbul

On the 975th week of their action, Saturday Mothers reiterated their demand for justice for their relatives who disappeared in state custody.

Saturday Mothers in Istanbul took to the streets for the 975th week to call for clarification about their relatives who "disappeared" in state custody and for the perpetrators to be punished. Accompanied by numerous supporters, including the socialist MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor, who is also a member of the delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and a former rapporteur on Turkey in the European Parliament, the initiative addressed the case of Hüseyin Taşkaya, who has never been found since his arrest in Siverek district of Urfa in 1993, at the vigil in the cordoned-off Galatasaray Square.

‘The state must ensure justice’

Sebla Arcan, who is part of the prison commission of the IHD (Human Rights Association), first gave a brief outline of the history of enforced disappearances in state custody in Turkey and the legal struggle to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. "We are here because remembering what the governments want us to forget is an important part of coming to terms with the past, of democratisation, of turning towards justice and human rights. Our insistence on not forgetting is also a demand for a democratic constitutional state and human rights. We call on the state to stop violating our right to truth and access to justice. Fulfil your obligation to carry out effective investigations and prosecutions that uncover the fate of our disappeared and ensure justice."

Regarding the case of Hüseyin Taşkaya, Arcan reported that the then 42-year-old Kurdish businessman was taken from his uncle's house in Siverek on 6 December 1993 by a squad of police officers, soldiers and village guards (militiamen loyal to the state) under the command of an army officer before disappearing without a trace. At the time, the district was completely under the rule of the Bucak clan, which was led by DYP deputy, tribal leader and village protector Sedat Bucak, and serious violations of the law were part of everyday life. Taşkaya, father of four children, was on a death list. The building contractor, who was a respected figure in his neighbourhood, was targeted by the security forces and the Bucak clan because he denounced the terror of the village guards and the crimes committed by state forces. Hüseyin Taşkaya's family asked the gendarmerie (military police), the police directorate, the public prosecutor's office and the governor about his whereabouts. The military claimed that he had been taken away by the police. The police, on the other hand, said: "He's not with us, ask Sedat Bucak." The head of the village guard, on the other hand, claimed that Hüseyin Taşkaya had been handed over to the state. The public prosecutor's office questioned whether an arrest had even taken place. The proceedings were discontinued. All of the family's applications were unsuccessful. Hüseyin Taşkaya has been missing since then.

Sánchez Amor expresses solidarity with Saturday Mothers’ fight for justice

After laying red carnations for Hüseyin Taşkaya in Galatasaray Square, the Saturday Mothers and their supporters moved on to the IHD office and issued a press statement. Nacho Sánchez Amor declared his solidarity with the Saturday Mothers and their fight for justice for the disappeared and stated that he was in Istanbul to monitor the human rights situation. "The Saturday Mothers' demands to find out the fate of their disappeared relatives and to bring the perpetrators to justice are legitimate," said the MEP, criticising the large police presence at the initiative's vigil. Sánchez Amor also criticised the fact that the security authorities had not allowed the Saturday Mothers’ access to Galatasaray Square for a long period of time, contrary to a ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court. "The decision by Turkey's highest court is commendable. But unfortunately, Turkish security authorities have disregarded the Basic Law and declared this important judgement of the Constitutional Court null and void."

The MEP pointed out that: “Turkey will never be a country to be respected as long as it is seen as a country where our rights are in the hands of police officers. I am incredibly happy that I was able to observe the Saturday Mothers' protest, because the Saturday Mothers are a perfect example of what it means to be a citizen. There are many violations of rights in Turkey, but I chose Saturday Mothers because of their importance. I stood with the Saturday Mothers because they showed the will of an absolute insistence on democratic rights. Defending the Saturday Mothers is defending human rights. Participating in their protests is something I want to do in the future, too. I am here for your rights."

Asked by journalists about the detention of the Saturday Mothers in recent weeks, Sánchez Amor said, "In the following process, it is necessary to apply to the ECtHR. You can boast about your army and soldiers as much as you want, but if a police officer does not recognise the decisions of the Constitutional Court and says that he is the decision-maker, human rights in this country are in the ground."

Since a large-scale attack on the Saturday Mothers ordered by the Ministry of the Interior in the summer of 2018, Galatasaray Square has been a no-go zone for the group. However, this was contrary to the right to freedom of assembly and demonstration, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled on 22 February 2023 and rejected the Ministry's objection that the "protection of public order" was threatened by the Saturday Mothers. "Everyone has the right to participate in unarmed and peaceful assemblies and demonstrations without prior authorisation", states Article 34 of the Turkish constitution, which the security authorities violated with their ban order for the violently dispersed Saturday Mothers action in August 2018 and all subsequent ones. The blockade of the square is therefore invalid, according to the court ruling. The Ministry of the Interior and the central authority of the Turkish police ignored the judgement for months and prevented the initiative from gathering in its traditional square week after week since the beginning of April. The Saturday Mothers have only been able to meet on Galatasaray Square again since 11 November.