Another child has joined a parent in a Turkish prison, as two-and-a-half-year-old İhsan Arif Cesur was forced to accompany his mother, Melek Cesur, in a prison in western Edirne province after his father was arrested the same day, Bold Medya reported.
İhsan Arif is currently in a quarantine ward with his mother. His mother is reportedly distressed as quarantine cells in Turkish prisons are notorious for their poor conditions and overcrowding.
Melek Cesur was arrested with her husband, Yunus Cesur, on Sunday after being handed six-year, three-month prison sentences for affiliation with the Gülen movement. While Melek Cesur’s case is pending a decision from the Supreme Court of Appeals, Yunus Cesur’s sentence was upheld by the appeals court.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), criticized the couple’s arrest on Twitter, saying Turkish prisons were already full of babies. “During the appeals process the mother must be released,” he said. “Authorities cannot leave another child motherless nor can the baby be expected to accompany the mother in prison.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
The purge has resulted in an increase of young children accompanying their mothers in prison.
As of October 2021, there were a total of 345 children under the age of 6 accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons. The children were kept in unsuitable conditions as they were not well fed and did not receive sufficient medical care.
Human rights advocates have said the courts need to take into account the economic and family situations of mothers with children under 6 and that female inmates with children should be in prisons with better conditions where children can be raised well.