On 25 August 2018 police shot tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets at peaceful protesters in Istanbul.

The protesters were mainly women - some of them in their 80s - from the 'Saturday Mothers’, a group who hold regular vigils for their relatives who disappeared in suspicious circumstances. The women have faced years of violence from the Turkish authorities.

President Erdogan once promised the Saturday Mothers safety. He’s gone back on his word. Email Erdogan now, demanding that they are allowed to peacefully protest.

Turkey: Lift the ban on peaceful 'Saturday Mothers' protest

The situation

"We come and sit there in peace. Mothers come to speak of their longing for their children. Brothers and sisters ask for a grave where they can mourn... Authorities should answer this question: Why did they do this to us? Who have we hurt?"

Emine Ocak, 82-year-old mother of Hasan Ocak, who disappeared in 1995

The ‘Saturday Mothers’ have met every Saturday in Galatasaray Square for a brief peaceful vigil since 1995.

They are a group of women protesting the suspicious disappearances of their loved ones during the unrest in Turkey in the 80s and 90s. Hundreds of people have gone missing. Suspected killed or jailed by the authorities, they have never been seen again.

The Mothers come and sit in silence mourning their lost loved ones. Using their right to peacefully protest against the government. Their rights have been horribly abused by the Turkish authorities.

The 700th vigil

On Saturday 25 August 2018 the group gathered in the usual spot to mark the 700th week since the vigil was first held.

Police approached and ordered them to disperse. They were told that the gathering had been banned by the district governor. When the protesters refused, the police shot tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets, forcing them to flee.

47 people were handcuffed in police buses for at least seven hours before finally going through the required medical checks and driven to the station to have their statements taken.

The vigil has now been banned, with the main road leading to the square blocked off every Saturday by armed police.

An authoritarian state

The Turkish authorities have allowed this protest to happen every week for years. This ban is more evidence of a worrying crackdown on human rights.

The irony is that President Erdogan met with the Saturday Mothers in 2011. He promised that the government would look into the disappearances. He lied.

When we stand together we can make change happen. Call on Erdogan to keep his promise, starting with lifting the ban on the Saturday Mothers’ peaceful vigil and ultimately bringing those responsible for these disappearances to justice.

Send an email to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today.