Two children, aged two and four years, are accompanying their mother, Serpil Turan, in prison following her arrest on January 5 to serve a sentence for conviction of links to the Gülen movement.
Turan had previously been sentenced to almost seven years for working at a student dormitory in Ankara that the government subsequently closed down because of its links to the Gülen movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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 on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Speaking to the Aktif Haber news website, a family member said Turan and her children are housed in an overcrowded ward and are suffering from poor prison conditions.
The detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children have dramatically increased in Turkey in the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt.
Human rights advocates have said children accompany their mothers in prison at very young ages, which are often critical periods in their mental and physical development. However, children are not provided basic needs such as crayons or toys. Some cells are not provided with a carpet for crawling babies, and inmates make makeshift rugs out of blankets. Many children do not have their own beds and share their mothers’ food.