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Join a worldwide show of solidarity with Istanbul’s Saturday Mothers

Amnesty International is organising a worldwide show of solidarity for the Saturday Mother’s 1000th vigil in Istanbul on Saturday 25th May.

For the past 29 years, the group known as the Saturday Mothers have tirelessly sought truth and justice for their loved ones who were forcibly disappeared in police custody in Turkey the 1980s and 1990s. The Saturday Mothers began holding a peaceful weekly vigil in Galatasaray Square in central Istanbul in May 1995 demanding that the authorities account for the fate of their loved ones. 

Time and again, the Saturday Mothers have been met with heavy-handed police repression, brutal crackdowns, arbitrary arrests, and even prosecutions for taking part in peaceful vigils. They are not actually protesting about anything the current regime has done but about historic injustices.

The Turkish authorities have never provided a valid justification for their unlawful denial of the right to exercise freedom of expression and assembly. In August 2018, riot police used tear gas and water cannons as well as excessive force to disperse the hundreds of people who had peacefully gathered to mark the 700th weekly vigil. The justification for the intervention was a banning order by the Beyoğlu district governor on the grounds that the Square was not a designated location for assemblies. 46 people were detained and indicted in 2021 and are still facing the charges of ‘refusing to disperse despite warnings.’ Their prosecution continues and what is supposed to be the final hearing in the case is due to take place in Istanbul on 5 April. 

Armed riot police continue to be stationed in Galatasaray Square, blockading all access and preventing peaceful protesters from assembling which is in contravention of two Constitutional Court rulings handed down in 2022 and 2023 that acknowledged that the Saturday Mothers’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly had indeed been breached in 2018.

Although since November 2023 there has been some, small, relaxation in the approach of the authorities, allowing 10 people to gather and release a statement each week it is very heavily policed and restricted and the prosecution from 2018 is still proceeding.

Across the world freedom of expression and freedom of assembly  are seriously under threat and that is certainly the situation in Türkiye. International interest in this case is really valued by the Saturday Mothers and they believe it can contribute to an improvement in their situation.

How you can take action

They are hoping to mobilise 1,000 activists from around the world for this  solidarity action, one for every Saturday vigil the group has held since 1995. Ideally they want all the solidarity actions around the world can take place before 6 May so photographs and videos of them can collated and then sent out as a blizzard of international solidarity on 25 May.

Things that you could do:

1. In your local area or WILPF branch hold a brief symbolic vigil in a locally important landmark, recognisable place, or outside the Turkish embassy, leaving red carnations (a flower Saturday Mothers/People leave on Galatasaray Square for their disappeared loved ones) and take pictures or videos of your actions.

2. Take photographs of yourself and other activists holding up supportive messages, such as those below. Try write any slogans in Turkish as well as your own language. 

  • Türkiye: Galatasaray Square belongs to Saturday Mothers/People
  • Türkiye: Cumartesi Anneleri/İnsanları’nın yeri Galatasaray Meydanıdır 
  • Türkiye: Protect the protest rights of Saturday Mothers/People
  • Türkiye: Cumartesi Anneleri/İnsanları’nın protesto haklarını koruyun

3. Key messages to share

  • Saturday Mothers/People must be allowed to return to Galatasaray Square without restrictions to continue their peaceful protest.
  • Saturday Mothers/People are the longest standing peaceful protestors in Türkiye, demanding truth and justice for victims of enforced disappearances since May 1995.
  • For almost six years, Saturday Mothers/People have been denied their right to peaceful assembly. 
  • To peacefully protest in search of truth and justice is a fundamental human right. 
  • Galatasaray Square is the meeting place of the relatives of the disappeared who do not have a grave to mourn their disappeared loved ones.
  • “A mother’s love can never be stifled, suppressed or silenced. And nor will Saturday Mothers/People’s demands for truth and justice.” 

Anything you can produce will be warmly welcomed, please send to by 6th May

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