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“It all starts with someone being disappeared”


Perhaps, the disappearances affected children the most. Children’s voices were heard the least. In order to hear the voices of the Saturday Children, we talked to Besna Tosun, who is the daughter of Fehmi Tosun, who was disappeared on 15 October 1995, and Hanim Tosun from the Saturday Mothers. She was 12 years old back then. Besna, who says “my father was not disappeared overnight”, started by telling us about the pressures they experienced in Lice and their move to Istanbul. She repeated her words which were not heard while she was a kid: “It all starts with someone being disappeared”. We hope she is heard this time.

My father was not disappeared overnight

What did you experience while moving from Lice to Istanbul?

I remember everything that happened very clearly after I turned six, because we experienced so many things. My father did not disappear overnight. We have been through so much before being disappared. I recall house raids very clearly, our home was raided every night before my dad went to prison. For some reason the raids were held at night and not during day. My mother would tell us: ‘don’t open your eyes’. We would not get out of bed, they would jump over us. They would say they were searching for someone, but they would even look between books. The purpose was harassment, not finding someone. They would scream, vandalize and leave. My father was taken into custody during the last raid and was held in prison for three years.

The pressures intensified with my uncle’s being killed, while my father was in prison. They transferred my father to Antep a year and a half later. Soldiers and rangers raided the village one day, when my mother had gone for a visit. Fumes started rising. I was alone with my sister. Our relatives took my sister and went to another village, so I went to our neighbours’. Soldiers started entering homes and burning them. I heard a gunshot while I was in our neighbour’s house. Apparently, it was my grandfather who was killed. He opposed his house being burnt, said he did not want to leave and was shot on the back while he started to pray.

Many houses were burnt that day. My mother returned two days after my grandfather’s funeral. I can never forget about that day. It was so hard for her, she had lost both her brother and father, her spouse was in jail. My mother was a very strong woman, she is still resisting. Good thing that she is. She kept us together, did not scatter her family, gave us strenght and kept us away from a lot of things so that we weren’t affected. But I know that she is worn-out. She became a widow when she was 30 years old, with five children in Istanbul. She did not speak a word of Turkish. I cannot even empathise as a 29 year-old.

They told us to either become rangers, or leave the village. We were the last ones to leave. It is easy to say “get up and go”. I mean, where are you going to go? Only three houses were left in the 200 habitant village, and these houses were far apart. The village was dark, we would go to bed at 6 pm. We were psychologically burned out, otherwise my mother would have resisted. We took some of our belongings and went to Diyarbakir. Our house was burnt after we left the village, we didn’t have the chance to return ever again. We came to Istanbul after a year, when my father was released. And my dad was disappeared before we spent a year over here.

I was eye-to-eye with those who abducted my father

How do you remember that day?

The day he was disappeared, I saw my father at the door as I was going in. Three people with radio-phones were standing beside him. We caught each other’s eyes. I smile at one and he smiled back. He knew me. I understood that a few minutes later. He smiled at me, knowing that I was Fehmi’s daughter, but I smiled at him thinking he was a friend of my father’s. Being eye-to-eye with them is as painful as losing my father. I’ve been living with this for 18 years and it’s so heavy. Maybe I would overcome this, if they were found and tried in a court.
I feel like I come across them every day. Because, you know, they were police officers. Every police I see, even a traffic police, is my dad’s murderer in my eyes. I cannot overcome this. Unless they are found and tried, all the police are my father’s murderers.
We lost my father, but my mother was not there either

So, what did you experience afterwards?

After my dad was abducted, those who knew us, our relatives, many people walked out of our lives. We lost a lot of people. We did not talk to anyone for a few years. I don’t blame them too much. Police waited at the door in the car for a long time. Everyone experienced the same fear. The police have come to the house many times with excuses. They took my father’s pictures from us, saying ‘we are coming from the station, we will make a search, we need pictures and documents’. Not that I am being followed, but I felt like I was for a long time.
We met people from the Human Rights Association (HRA) when my mother went there after my dad was abducted. Everyone who worked at the HRA stood by us. They would come to our house all the time. Especially Leman Yurtsever; she is like a second mother to me. My mother was always out, she would be taken into custody, go abroad and travel to other cities. We lost my father, but my mother was also not there for a long while. In that period, everyone from the HRA supported us and it is thanks to them that we have overcome many issues. Leman would come to our house and prepare food. They would treat us like kids, they helped us so much in overcoming it. They would distract us instead of saying “tell us about it”. Those from the HRA were more conscious. They would not talk about things next to us.
When I came to Galatasaray, three or four people wanted me to tell them about how my father was abducted. I was 12, I could not stand it in the end and started crying. Nadire (Mater) said, “Enough, she’s a kid”. I never forget that.
The first saturday protest was a letdown

Was this you first memory of the Saturday Square?

I went to Saturday for the first time a few months after we lost my father, with high hopes. I was a 12 year-old child, aware of nothing. I had seen how my father was abducted, who had done it and the licence plate of the car he was abducted in. I went there, believing that I would tell them about what I knew and that it would be enough to find my father. I told them about my dad’s abduction in all details, but I came home very upset. News about the protest on the television was just two lines. For that reason, it was a big letdown for me. It was hard, you keep telling the same story, but nobody hears you.
I was wounded. My mother kept me and my siblings away, because she knew about it. I started attending occasionally after I turned 15, but not every week like my mother. It took a long time for me to defeat my disappointment. I could never be as trusting as my mother. It was not easy to witness those incidents at 12.

Did you encounter police intervention?

My mother would go every week and we knew that she would be beaten, be subject to pepper gas and taken into custody. During that period, my mother would not take us with her, even if we wanted to go. She would say she could not protect us.
The Saturday Children lived through much more painful things

How are the relationships between Saturday People?

They understand each other the best. No matter how sensitive your are, or how much you stand beside them, the ones who have experienced it understand each other better. The Saturday Children stand behind the Saturday Mothers and I think that they experienced much more painful things. They lost ones who were close to them, but they alos lost mothers and fathers. They kept their children at the back so that other people would not be disappeared. This is not wrong, but we as kids experienced much more painful things.
We lost our father, but we also lost our mother. We were not able to see my mother for a long time, and would miss her. They put my father into the car by force,my brother tried to hold on to him, the car drove away. That is when my mother started; she started by running after the car barefoot. She ran after the car in such a way, I could not scream “dad,” but screamed “mum, don’t go” instead. She really went away.
I don’t blame my mother or am not angry at her. I would do the same thing for the man I love, the father of my kids. (Bianet)

For the rest of the interview, click here