When the Republic of Turkey emerged from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, its national ambition was to join Europe as a modern, secular state. But after much progress, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has now all but squandered his country’s chance of realizing its founders’ vision.
Each Saturday in central Istanbul, dozens of Turkish protesters gather to commemorate the memories of hundreds 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 gathering point in Galatasaray Square at the heart of the city. As they were 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 described as one of the world’s longest civil disobedience movements. On August 25, as the group sat in silence, holding photographs of their missing relatives, police targeted the protesters with teargas and plastic pellets. Up to 47 people were arrested but were released by the end of the day(New York Times). Police also assaulted reporters during the August 25 protest, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Those detained by the police included 80-something Emine Ocak, who has been attending the vigils regularly since her son disappeared in 1995 (New York Times). The protests have been held to protest the forced disappearances and murders of hundreds of people after a military coup in 1980, and during the long-running Kurdish-Turkish conflict.