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Turkey Clamps Down on a Group Erdogan Once Championed: Grieving Mothers

The commission confirmed that Mr. Kirbayir had been detained by the state and tortured to death. Yet his body was never traced, and prosecutors did not bring any perpetrators to trial. The parliamentary commission ceased its work after that.

“He said: ‘Mother Berfo, I am going to find your son,’” Fatma Gulmez, Ms. Kirbayir’s daughter, quoted Mr. Erdogan as saying. “He promised our mother and he did not keep his promise.”

When he was mayor of Istanbul, Mr. Erdogan was widely seen as a man of the people; he is now closely identified by many with the state and its security apparatus.

“When he was mayor, he did good things for the people,” said Hanim Tosun, whose husband went missing from police custody in 1995. “Then he became a lawmaker, prime minister and president, and he began to smash people’s heads.”

Amid fierce criticism for mistreating the mothers after the first crackdown by the police in late August, the government spokesman gave a brief acknowledgment of the group’s suffering in a generally harsh statement. “There is nothing more respectful than the pain of a mother who lost her child, her longing for him,” said Mr. Celik, the spokesman.

But the police have been out in force to prevent the mothers from rallying every Saturday since.

An opposition lawmaker, Sezgin Tanrikulu, said Mr. Erdogan was looking to find a scapegoat amid an economic crisis. “He is continually looking for tension and confrontation, to make everyone enemies of each other and create the perception of terrorism for his own support base,” he said. “This is his aim.”

The mothers expressed shock at the way the police handled them.

“I did not kill anyone, why did you do this to me?” said Emine Ocak, the mother of Hasan, addressing Mr. Erdogan directly at a news briefing after the police crackdown. “I am hurting, I am in pain, don’t you have a conscience?”

Source: NYT > World

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