Hülya Bayden, 31, said in a letter to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that her 3-year-old daughter was prescribed psychiatric medication because of the stress her arrest has caused.
Bayden was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, one year ago. In her letter, which was published by the Bold Medya news website, Bayden said she was only able to see her daughter, Rana, twice during her imprisonment. When Rana was able to visit her mother, she cried and screamed because they were only able to see each other behind a glass partition. Separation from her mother caused behavioral problems according to Bayden. Rana refused to eat, had crying fits and shut herself in her room.
Bayden said the only thing she wanted was to embrace her daughter, who has now been prescribed medication by the psychiatrist.
She said she was unlawfully convicted because she did not have the opportunity to defend herself properly in court due to a problem with the sound and video information system (SEGBIS), a digital system allowing inmates to attend their hearings from prisons.
“The proceeding should have been halted until the system was fixed. I want justice like everyone else. I want the Supreme Court of Appeals to reconsider my case,” she said.
Bayden was a mathematics teacher in a private school affiliated with the Gülen movement that was closed by a government decree. She was sentenced to nine years, nine months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” Bayden’s husband was also arrested in December 2019 for affiliation with the movement.
Turkish 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and shut down a total of 1,058 educational institutions and 1,769 NGOs by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Many children of purge victims have suffered from mental stress. In November Hanife Algan said she had been taking care of her two grandchildren aged 8 and 5 since her daughter Tuba Tuncer and her husband Mahmut Tuncer were arbitrarily arrested for affiliation with the movement.
“The children have been under a great deal of stress. They refuse to eat, and the younger one cries all night for her mother, while the 8-year-old has completely stopped talking,” she said.
Saniye Biçer, who was arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges, also sent a letter to Gergerlioğlu saying her arrest had torn the family apart and affected the mental health of her children.
Biçer asked for Gergerlioğlu’s help in obtaining justice. “I hope I will be heard by the authorities. My children are citizens of this country, their education and mental health are very important!” she said.