A total of 520 children under the age of six are accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons, according to a report released on Tuesday by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the Kronos news website reported.
Turkish prisons host some 14,000 women, 470 of whom are accompanied by their children, the report said.
According to Tanrıkulu thousands of women were unlawfully jailed in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based 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 in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Children and their mothers are being illegally held in prison, in poor conditions, Tanrıkulu said, adding, ’’However, the real problem is not that these babies are not living in ‘good prison conditions’; the problem is that ‘these babies are in prison.’ What are we going to do about it?”
The number of children accompanying their mothers in prison skyrocketed in Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July 2016.
According to report published by the Civil Society in the Penal System (CİSST) in April 2022, children who accompany their mothers in Turkish prisons are deprived of basic necessities.
“Children are cut off from the outside world, and they cannot participate in social and cultural activities,” the report said. “This is detrimental for physical and mental wellbeing and will cause problems in connecting with society later in life.”
Previous reports have also underlined that Turkish prisons do not accommodate the needs of children and infants. Most prisons do not provide crayons, toys or carpets for crawling babies. Many children do not have their own beds and share their mothers’ food.