The Saturday Mothers of Cizre in their 100th week

Özlem Kaya

The relatives of the disappeared have met for 404 weeks in Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square and for 202 weeks in front of Diyarbakır’s Right to Life Monument. The relatives of the disappeared who gather on Gülistan Boulevard in Batman are nearly in their 200th week. What they want is to make sure the disappeared are not forgotten, to try the perpetrators responsible for the disappearance, and to promote justice. In Cizre, the relatives of the disappeared and the families of the victims of unresolved murders have been trying to make their voices heard by coming together in front of Cizre High School for exactly 100 weeks.

Cizre is a place in which the policy of enforced disappearance, which intensified in the 90s, was felt most strongly. Whether it is because of Cizre’s physical distance or its abandonment is unclear, but extra effort is needed in order to hear the voices of the relatives of the disappeared in Cizre. We listened to Veysel Vesek, who has worked on the Temizöz and Others case, explain the story of the Saturday Mothers in Cizre.

In Cizre, the relatives of the disappeared first came together in 2009 through the legal process. The opening of the Temizöz and Others case in Diyarbakır also had a large impact. The families in Cizre started to come and go to Diyarbakır as a group in order to follow the hearings and to be involved with the case, because the case aims to try certain individuals, such as Cemal Temizöz and Kamil Atağ, as the responsible parties for the unresolved murders and disappearances in Cizre. According to Vesek, their first sit-ins were actually in front of the courthouse in Diyarbakır. All of these occurrences, and of course the experiences of the sit-ins in Istanbul and Diyarbakır, helped to guide the families in Cizre.

In January 2011, the members of the Progressive Lawyers Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği,or ÇHD) and some human rights advocates held a meeting with the relatives of the disappeared. At this meeting, it was decided that demonstrations would be held every Saturday in Cizre under the name of the Saturday Mothers (Cumartesi Anneleri / Dayîkên Şemiyê). The first demonstration was held on 29 January at a park in Cizre Dörtyol.

Regardless of the fact that the demonstration was started by the lawyers of the disappeared and unresolved murders as well as by some human rights advocates, according to Vesek, the most important reason for the demonstration’s continuation is that the relatives of the disappeared have taken ownership of the demonstration and have actively participated and persisted every week.

The most striking features of the demonstration in Cizre include the fact that most of the participants are women and that there is little participation outside of the relatives of the disappeared. According to Vesek, there are more women because the men who actively supported the demonstration at the beginning are currently being tried within the scope of the KCK cases. Unfortunately, there has been little support outside of the BDP members of the Şırnak Municipal Council, the directors of the BDP, mayors, MEYADER, and the directors and members of ÇHD. In the 99th week, for the first time, the head and members of the Şırnak Bar Association showed their support for the demonstration, helping to boost morale of the relatives of the disappeared. Veysel Vesek underscores the fact that lawyers, other civil society institutions, and the directors of the BDP need to give more support to the demonstrations in Cizre.

Especially after last Friday’s decision in the case of Temizöz and Others to release the chief village guard Kamil Atağ, many people who were and who wanted to be involved with the case, as well as those who were expecting justice through this case were very disappointed. The Saturday Mothers who gather in Cizre are definitely in need of more participation to strengthen their cries.