Türkiye: “We will continue to speak up until our voices are heard”

Hanife Yildiz joined the Saturday Mothers movement in the hope of one day finding her son Murat, one of the 1,300 victims of enforced disappearance in Türkiye.

Since 1995, relatives of over 1,300 people who have been forcibly disappeared in Türkiye have gathered every Saturday in Galatasaray Square in Istanbul to ask where the victims are. Hanife Yildiz joined the Saturday Mothers movement, hoping to find her son Murat one day.

Could you tell us the story of your son Murat's disappearance?

In 1995, Murat faced accusations of shooting a police officer and fleeing the scene. In reality, he was an 18-year-old who fired into the air, not at the police. This desperate act was driven by his girlfriend's parents' rejection of a love affair. My son wasn't a political activist but a young man who acted out of frustration. Unfortunately, I've had no contact with him since then. The authorities informed me that he ran away after his arrest.

What happened after Murat disappeared?

After Murat disappeared, I filed a case against the police. The trial ended in 2000, and the police officers responsible only received a very small fine. They never appeared in court, citing professional and financial constraints. There wasn't a single witness. The trial didn't shed any light on anything. How did my son disappear? We knew nothing.

Why did you join the Saturday Mothers movement?

After my son’s disappearance, when I was watching TV one day, I saw the father of Hasan Ocak, who disappeared in the Gazi Quarter riots in Istanbul in 1995. From Galatasaray Square, he called on people with a missing relative to join the movement and make their voices heard. I immediately travelled to Istanbul and joined them. I realised that many people had disappeared in police stations all over the country. The police took them from their homes and workplaces, and they were never seen again. The State was lying to us.

Did it help you join the protests of the Saturday Mothers?

I have been fighting with these people for 28 years. We ask for the truth about our loved ones and the people responsible to be brought to justice. Our missing relatives are neither dead nor alive nor buried. We are going to Galatasaray Square to continue to make our voices heard, and we hope to make enough noise so that nothing like this ever happens to anyone again. Unfortunately, some mothers have died over the years. Some families have moved away, others have lost hope in the government and have become more discreet. We'll have to wait and see what happens in the future.

Has the government helped you?

Sadly not. On the contrary, the current administration has elevated people accused of involvement in these incidents to higher positions, including parliamentary and ministerial posts. They claim that we are tarnishing the image of the Republic of Türkiye. But we are simply telling the truth. Until mothers' voices are heard, we will continue to speak up.

Part 1 - Türkiye: “I've been arrested and sent to prison”- a human rights lawyer tells his story

Part 2 - Türkiye: “If I felt unable to make a difference, I would stop”