Istanbul police on Saturday broke up a regular demonstration by Turkish mothers remembering the disappearance of relatives in the 1980s and 1990s, detaining almost 50 people as participants marked the 700th such weekly protest.
The mothers, known as the Saturday Mothers (Cumatesi Anneleri in Turkish), have met on Saturdays since May 27, 1995 in the heart of Istanbul, to remember relatives who disappeared allegedly at the hands of the state in one of modern Turkey's most turbulent periods.
The group is said to have been inspired by the long struggle of Argentina's own Mothers of Plaza de Mayo.
AFP sources present in Istanbul said police used water cannon and fired tear gas canisters to disperse the protest.
The crackdown by the police followed an announcement by the authorities of the central Beyoglu district where the rally is held that Saturday's demonstration would be banned.
It said that calls for the rally to take place had been made on social media accounts linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and no application for permission to hold it had been made.
The disappearances happened at the peak of the PKK insurgency demanding self-rule in the Kurdish-dominated southeast. Tens of thousands have lost their lives in the conflict that began in 1984 and continues to this day.
The Saturday Mothers group were unable to hold their protests for a decade from 1999 to 2009 due to repeated police interventions but they then resumed. Police have since maintained a watchful presence at the protests but this was the first time in recent years the protest has been broken up.
The forceful dispersion of the rally comes two months after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a new mandate with enhanced powers which activists fear will be used to squeeze freedom of expression in Turkey.
The Saturday Mothers group is said to have been inspired by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the group of Argentine mothers who hold rallies after their children disappeared during the last military dictatorship (1976-1983).
The Saturday Mothers demand a full opening of the state archives to uncover what happened to their loved ones, prosecution of the perpetrators and the abolition of the statute of limitations for abuses committed by the security forces.