Couple of policeman and teacher, their premature baby in jail over alleged links to Gülen movement

Fatma Çetin, a teacher who was earlier dismissed from public school in Erzurum province as part of the government’s post-coup crackdown against the Gülen movement, has been under arrest along with her premature baby, Sözcü daily’s columnist Emin Çölasan revealed. Çetin’s husband, who had also been dismissed as a police officer over similar charges, was also imprisoned 11 months ago.

“Dear Mr. Çölaşan, I am writing this letter to you from Erzurum Closed Prison. If you get the letter, please read every line of it very carefully. Because, it will show the pain deep inside me. I can’t make our voices heard otherwise,” said Fatma Çetin in her letter send to Çölaşan, that he published in his Sunday column.

“When my husband was arrested [in July 2016], I was 7-month-old pregnant. The baby’s development slowed down due to the stress we experienced and I had to give birth to a premature baby in the 8th month of my pregnancy. My baby spent some time in an incubator.

“Difficulties were yet to simmer down. While I was on maternity leave, I was also suspended as a teacher on Oct. 13, 2016 and ultimately dismissed on Feb 7. 2017. After almost two months, I was arrested on membership to FETO. I took along my premature infant only a week after my arrest.”

“FETO” stands for alleged “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization”, which the government coined to label the Gülen movement terrorist. The government accuses the movement of being behing the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 while the latter denies involvement.

“As I lived apart from my baby for a week, I poured my breast milk to washbasin in cries. You can imagine how hard this would be for a mother.”

Fatma Çetin has also shared details on daily routine in prison: “30 people live in an 8-person-holding cell. The 29th person was 4-year-old Hasan and 30th was my baby, Melek. There is no space to move in the holding cell where every corner is occupied by bunk beds. Even when you whisper, you can’t someone else hearing it and therefore my baby is not able to sleep regularly. She is also forced to eat from the adults’s menu which were provided in jail. She has even no space to crawl. And, I am not gonna go into details about hygiene in prison as we, 30 people, all use the same bathroom and washroom.”

“We are a nuclear family of three and all of us including my baby are under arrest. What role would I have played in the coup attempt when I was 7-month-pregnant to a baby that we wanted to have for three years. Was the pencil that I use as a teacher considered as a weapon?” she concluded.

More than 17,000 women in Turkey, many with small children, have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents, a report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear” released in April by SCF has revealed.

560 children, aged between 0 to 6, are being held in Turkish prisons along with their mothers, according to data given by Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Children are taken into prison in the absence of family members to look after them outside. It has become a common occurrence that both parents are taken into custody leaving no one  to care for children. Turkish government, on many occasions, detained pregnant mothers as well.

It is reported that out of 560 children behind the bars, 114 are aged between 0 and 12 months; 128 children are 1-year-old; 114 children 2 years old; 81 children 3 years old; 70 children 4 years old; 31 children 5 years old; 5 children 6 years old; while age of the remaining 17 are unknown, the ministry said.

A controversial military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13. (SCF with June 19, 2017


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