Two disabled women sharing a cell in Ankara’s Sincan Prison have complained to their families of neglect and poor medical care, the Bold Medya news website reported.
Speaking to their families on the phone, Mehtap Şentürk and Şerife Sulukan said prison guards neglected and insulted them. A button was provided in their cell so the women could call the guards in case they needed something. However, every time they used it, the guards insulted the women, saying such things as they “were not in [their] mother’s house” and could not expect special attention.
Şentürk told her mother in tears that she felt psychologically pressured and physically weak. She added that pain in her body had increased and that her blood pressure was constantly high.
“Before Şerife [Sulukan] arrived, my daughter was in a cell on her own. The guards put her in a cell and only went to see how she was doing the next day. My daughter has panic attacks, and a whole day alone in a cell was very difficult for her. Moreover, she suffers from muscle pain, so somebody needs to regularly help her move her body. But the guards just ignore all these things,” said Şentürk’s mother.
Şentürk suffers from multiple sclerosis and is wheelchair-bound. She is almost totally disabled and cannot take care of herself.
She was sent to prison in early March after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a prison sentence of seven years due to her affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement.
The Turkish Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) issued a report saying Şentürk was fit to remain in prison.
Doubts over the independence and credibility of the ATK, an institution that assesses the condition of sick inmates to decide if they are fit to remain in prison and is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice, have grown in recent years as more and more critically ill prisoners have died behind bars.
Sulukan, a former teacher who has been suffering from paralysis for more than a year, was also sent to prison in early May after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a six year, three month prison sentence due to her affiliation with the movement.
Both women’s husbands are also in prison on similar charges.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
There have even been cases when women arrested on Gülen links died in jail after they were denied critical medication by the prison authorities or when women were sent to jail immediately after delivery with their newborns, contrary to the law.
Turkey’s women rights organizations and opposition parties are criticized for turning a blind eye to the plight of these women and not raising their voices against their imprisonment on what many say are politically motivated charges.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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 the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.