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Turkish government bans years-long Saturday Mothers vigil

The Saturday Mothers, a group that has been gathering in a central İstanbul square for 23 years to bring attention to the cases of people who disappeared while in custody in the 1990s, will no longer be allowed to meet, a Justice and Development Party (AKP) official announced on Wednesday.

Speaking following a party meeting, AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik said the vigil has become a platform that has been taken over by terrorist organizations over the years.

“Terror propaganda through the abuse of the pain of the mothers will not be allowed. That venue will no longer be used for such a purpose from now on,” said Çelik.

The Saturday Mothers, who first gathered on May. 27, 1995 in Galatasaray Square on İstiklal Street, has been the longest-running protest Turkey has ever witnessed. They protest questions unanswered by the authorities about the disappearance or unsolved murder of their loved ones after being taken by security forces, and the lack of justice in court.

The 700th meeting of the group last Saturday was overshadowed by police violence leading to the detention of the dozens of people because of a ban imposed by the Interior Ministry.

Unsolved murders and disappearances were frequent occurrences in the late 1980s when tension between two terrorist groups, Hizbullah and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), grew violent.

The disappearances are also known as the “white Taurus” (Beyaz Toros) incidents since gendarmerie intelligence and the JITEM counterterrorism unit put people into white Renault Toros cars and never brought them back. Some remains of people who were forced into those cars were found in forests, garbage cans and rural areas, and some people were never found.

In the meantime, Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday calling on Turkish authorities to allow the next vigil of the Saturday Mothers slated for Sept. 1 to take place.

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