Activists demonstrate against high number of female inmates in Turkish prisons

Human rights activists on Tuesday staged demonstrations in several European cities  protesting the high number of female prisoners in Turkish prisons, the TR724 news website reported.

On International Women’s Day, activists in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland gathered to raise awareness that 11,000 women are currently behind bars in Turkey.

During the demonstration in Denmark activists said many women were incarcerated due to their political opinions. They added that children often had to accompany their mothers in prison and that they were not provided with basic needs such as milk as well as toys.

According to the most recent data, as of December 2021 there were 548 children in prison with their mothers.

Activists pointed out that several women had died when they attempted to flee Turkey in search of a safer life. Photographs of those women who lost their lives while trying to reach Greece were displayed in front of Copenhagen city hall.

They added that women who suffered from serious illness were kept in prison despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In Amsterdam demonstrators handed out 11,000 roses to commemorate imprisoned women. They said the demonstration was organized to give hope to those who were imprisoned and let them know they were not forgotten.

Bilal Akdoğan, one of the demonstrators, in a statement said that especially after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the number of female political prisoners had increased dramatically. “Dozens of women are being arrested on a weekly basis for their political views,” he said. “The Turkish government has deprived thousands of women of their liberty on the pretext that they are affiliated with terrorist groups.”

According to recent statistics published by Bold Medya the number of women in prisons has increased sixfold since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government came to power in 2002, from 2,108 prisoners to 11,823.

Many women in prison say their imprisonment is politically motivated and that they have nothing to do with terrorism while complaining that they are subjected to various rights violations in prison.

Thousands of women have been incarcerated for their affiliation with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

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. He 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.

Kurdish women have also been incarcerated in large numbers and subjected to mistreatment in prison as well as disciplinary action for speaking Kurdish. In the most recent case, Kurdish inmate Garibe Gezer died by suicide after allegedly being sexually harassed by prison guards.

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