While the Saturday Mothers’ struggle for disappearances has been going on for 959 weeks in many provinces, it found support for the first time in Van with the new management of the İHD. İHD Van Provincial Chairperson Fırat Durmaz says that after the decision to take action, they will continue the struggle for justice despite the Governor’s ban on weekends and all obstacles.
The protest of Saturday Mothers/People to ask about the fate of their disappeared relatives in custody and to demand that the perpetrators be prosecuted continues in its 959th week. The Saturday protests, which started with the disappearance of Hasan Ocak, who lived in the Gazi District of Istanbul’s Sultangazi district, on March 21, 1995, and the subsequent discovery of his body, who was killed by torture on May 15, in the cemetery of the orphans, continues despite the obstacles. The action started by Hasan Ocak’s mother, Emine Ocak and several families, continued with the support of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and many institutions. The Saturday People, whose actions have been banned for 5 years, still go to Galatasaray Square and dozens of people are detained every week, including İHD Co-Chair Eren Keskin. The struggles of families, who have been asking about the fate of their relatives for 28 years, have gone beyond Turkey and become a symbol in the world. In addition, many cities such as Ankara, Adana, Diyarbakir and Batman support the Saturday protests outside of Istanbul.
IHD, which is also the founder of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), has been the first address for seeking justice against rights violations since its establishment in 1986. The determination of the new administration of the İHD by the congress in Van decided a first in the city regarding the Saturday protests. The first practice of the new administration of the İHD was to protest the bans imposed on the Saturday Mothers’ sessions demanding justice. On the other hand, for the first time in Van, periodic press releases on Saturday Mothers began.
The Van Governor’s ban on protests and activities in the city just before the İHD’s statements was met with a reaction by the İHD. We talked to İHD Van Provincial Chairman Fırat Durmaz about the press statements they made for Saturday people and their rights violations.
Durmaz, who is also the relative of the missing…
Durmaz is also a relative of the disappeared. His father, who teaches in many cities of the region and also fights with the Dengê Kawaists, enters Diyarbakır Prison in 1982, and comes out 4 years later, taking advantage of the ‘General Amnesty’. Reşat Durmaz is among the unsolved murders in 1991, pretending to be an accident on the Hakkari Güzeldere road. 32 years later, his son Fırat Durmaz starts his struggle to find the missing in Van with the İHD Van Provincial Presidency and administration.
‘We have been defending justice against rights violations for 28 years’
Durmaz states that the İHD has a 37-year history of struggle and states that they are an association that is accepted all over the world. Underlining that it is valuable for them to carry forward the legacy of struggle they have received from a society where unsolved murders are experienced, Durmaz says the following about the Saturday protests and bans they started in the city: prohibition decision is taken. The only thing to fear is actually hearing and seeking the truth. What are we advocating? We want to know what happened to our loved ones whose existence was denied after being detained and whose fate was left in the dark. We demand an end to impunity for grave violations of rights, especially those who disappeared in custody for 28 years. For 28 years, we have been defending the right to justice and the right to secure the place of the fear of something happening to you while defending this right.
‘We have been calling the state for 959 weeks’
Saying that the state did not do its part in finding the missing, Durmaz underlines that the state remains silent against the punishment and legal sanctions of collective gross violations of rights. Emphasizing that their main struggle is Turkey’s struggle to become a rule of law, Durmaz said, “Our legitimate demands will gain legitimacy when this country becomes a rule of law. We have been calling out to this state for 959 weeks; We want to know what happened to our loved ones under the auspices of the state. This is a legal battle. These bans are imposed to prevent our voice from reaching the society, but we will never back down from our just struggle.”
‘They have to face the past’
Lastly, Durmaz gives the following words about the news that 8 out of 10 villagers detained in Söğütlü (Peyindas) village of Tatvan district of Bitlis were tortured and 2 villagers were ‘missing’: serious violations of rights will end. For this reason, it does not end with saying that people whose perpetrators were not known in the past disappeared in custody. Unless we are a state of law, there is no guarantee of the future unless the past is confronted. For this reason, unsolved perpetrators and violations of rights will continue. Turkey must be a democratic state of law in order for all of this to come to an end and for our just struggle to sit on a legitimate ground.”
Translator :Akif Coşkun