345 children under the age of 6 in prison with their mothers in Turkey: report

Babies accompanying their mothers in Konya Ereğli prison.

A total of 345 children under the age of 6 are accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons, and they receive the same treatment as inmates, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported, citing a study by the Right to Life Association.

According to the study children are traumatized by strip-searches. They are not well fed and don’t receive sufficient medical care. They also have difficulty getting time to play.

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) Secretary-General Coşkun Üsterci said the courts need to take into account the economic and social conditions of mothers with children under 6. “Even at times when imprisonment is absolutely necessary, female inmates with children should be in prisons with special and better conditions where the children can be raised well,” he added.

“We don’t even know if children are allowed to see daylight,” Ceren Kalay of the Ankara Bar Association said. “The children can be protected by putting their mothers under house arrest.”

According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Children, “In cases where the parents or other primary caregivers commit an offence, alternatives to detention should be made available and applied on a case-by-case basis, with full consideration of the likely impacts of different sentences on the best interests of the affected child or children.”

The number of children accompanying their mothers in prison skyrocketed in Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016. According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating the coup attempt. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the 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 locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

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.

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