The Saturday Mothers meet at Galatasaray for the 400th week

Since 1995, for exactly seventeen years, the Saturday Mothers have held a sit-in every week in Galatasaray Square for their relatives who disappeared while under custody. On 24 November 2012, the 400th week of their demonstration, they were once again in the square. The 400th week of the demonstration was held in remembrance of Cemil Kırbayır, who was taken into custody and killed during the September 12 coup d’état, and relatives inquired about the fate of the disappeared.

In the 1990s, people who were last seen being brought to a police or gendarmerie station, or people who were seen “being put into a white Renault by people with walkie-talkies” and people who were never heard from again… Hundreds of people, some of whose fate – as uncovered by the statements of informants working within the operations of what is known as JİTEM (Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization) – was either to be buried in pauper’s graves or abandoned somewhere desolate. So, starting on 27 May 1995 and continuing through today, the relatives of a few people who were disappeared while in custody began to gather in Galatasaray Square, sit down, and tirelessly pursue the fate of their relatives, spouses, sons, and siblings. What remains after 17 years are the Saturday Mothers who have clashed with the police, been arrested, and experienced various reactions. However, as a result of the increase in suppression and arrests, they had decided to take a break from the demonstrations.

Over the course of that process, the political climate changed; the names of some of the Saturday Mothers’ relatives have come up in the Ergenekon case and similar cases; after the 12 September coup, the Turkish Parliament’s Human Rights Investigation Commission initiated research on the disappearance of Cemil Kırbayır… The famous Irish rock group U2 commemorated one of the disappeared, Fehmi Tosun, on the cover of one of their albums and dedicated it to him. The group’s singer, Bono, met with Tosun’s wife, Hanım Tosun of the Saturday Mothers, when he came to Istanbul. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also met with the Saturday Mothers and listened to their statements.

But… in spite of all of these developments, the time that has passed since then, and the continuing trials, the Saturday Mothers continue to inquire about the fate of their relatives. Because the Saturday Mothers still don’t have graves where they can mourn for their loved ones.

The Saturday Mothers gathered in Galatasaray to inquire about the fate of their loved ones for the 400th time. They still had the photographs of their disappeared relatives in their hands. For the 400th week, they told the story of Cemil Kırbayır, who was taken into custody by the police 31 years ago and never heard from again.