6-year-old boy accompanying mother in prison is released without mother, sparking concern over well-being 

A 6-year-old boy who has accompanied his mother in prison since infancy has been entrusted to the care of relatives while his mother and father remain in prison, sparking concern over his well-being, Bold Medya news website reported.

Bedirhan Kaya has been in Burhaniye T-type Prison since he was six months old. His mother Zinnet Kaya and father Babahan Kaya were arrested and sent to prison for alleged links to the Gülen movement. His older siblings, aged 10 and 12, have been living with their grandparents since their incarceration. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by 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 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Relatives have expressed concern about little Bedirhan as he has spent his entire life in prison. They worry that he may not be able to adapt to life outside prison without his mother. 

Zinnet Kaya’s arrest was a violation of the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, which stipulates that the “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.”

Despite the law, the detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children have dramatically increased in Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Turkish authorities have been continuing jailing mothers with their babies as part of a crackdown on alleged members of the Gülen movement.

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.

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