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.” He accused the group of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

However, the group denies links to militant groups and said in a press conference that President Tayyip Erdogan once showed support for the vigils 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 including journalists accused of links to a failed coup in 2016 were charged and 150,000 civil servants were expelled, accused of links to terrorists.

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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  • A look at whether the blocking of the Saturday Mothers event is a sign of increasing authoritarianism in Turkey under Erdogan
  • A report on the history and context of the Saturday Mothers demonstrations
  • A rolling report on the upcoming Saturdays and attitudes in Turkey towards the protest

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