Turkish police crack down on 'Saturday Mothers' vigil for lost detainees

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Every Saturday in central Istanbul, dozens of Turkish protesters gather to recount the memories of lost relatives that have gone missing in police detention. As they have done for the past 23 years, on September 1, the group known as “Saturday Mothers” made their way towards a central marching point near Taksim square.

About to stage their 701st demonstration seeking justice for relatives who disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s, Turkish riot police obstructed the path of some 300 participants with armored water cannon vehicles, reports Deutsche Welle.

This was the second week in a row that police targeted the sit-in, which is one of the world’s longest civil disobedience movements. On August 25, as the group sat in silence, holding photographs of their missing loved ones, police targeted the protesters with teargas and plastic pellets. Up to XX people were arrested.

Police also assaulted reporters during the August 25 protest, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said authorities blocked the vigil because participants were trying to “mask terrorism through that victimization.”

However, the group denies links to any militant group and said in a press conference that President Tayyip Erdogan once showed support for the group in 2012.

Critics say the targeting of the vigil, one of the last protests allowed near Istanbul’s Taksim square, is a sign of Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

During a two year-long state of emergency that was lifted in July, 77,000 people accused of links to a failed coup in 2016 were charged and 150,000 civil servants were expelled.

Saturday Mothers gather on a side street that leads to Istiklal Street as they try to march to Galatasaray Square, where they meet every week, demanding to know the fate of their missing relatives, claimed to be last seen in the hands of security forces, in central Istanbul, Turkey September 1, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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