Following a court ruling, relatives of victims of enforced disappearances held a sit-in in Istanbul in the 1980s and 1990s.

Members of a group of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances in Turkey held a vigil in central Istanbul without police intervention for the first time since 2018.

The group known as the “Saturday Mothers” (“Cumartesi Anneleri” in Turkish) has met every Saturday in the heart of Istanbul since May 1995 and staged peaceful sit-ins to demand justice and remember relatives who disappeared after a military coup in Istanbul in 1980 and during the state of emergency in the 1990s, particularly in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

In 2018, police cracked down on their demonstration after local authorities announced they would ban it because calls for the rally were allegedly made via social media accounts linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the group is classified as a terrorist by Ankara and its Western allies. Police used force and tear gas to disperse the participants.

Ten demonstrators held their vigil in Galatasaray Square in Istanbul on Saturday without police intervention. It was its 972nd such vigil, the group said in a statement on X.

The resumption of the vigil comes after Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, the former governor of Istanbul, said on Wednesday in response to questions from opposition lawmakers during a parliamentary session that the government had “good intentions” and had found a peaceful solution to the problem.

“We will not stop searching for all of our missing people and demanding that the perpetrators be brought to justice and punished,” the group Saturday Mothers said on X.

The disappearance came at the height of the PKK insurgency demanding self-rule in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

The activists said their relatives disappeared after reported kidnappings, in police custody or in extrajudicial killings. International human rights groups have called for an investigation into the allegations. The group says the government never properly investigated the fate of those who disappeared after being detained by authorities.

Members of the group faced court in 2021 for refusing to disperse despite police warnings, and for the past five years, police have dispersed and arrested members of the group every Saturday when they tried to organize their protest.

In February, the Constitutional Court ruled that the right of some members of the group to organize demonstrations had been violated.

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