Girl with Down syndrome left with teenage sister after parents detained for helping refugees

A seven-year-old girl with Down syndrome was left to the care of her teenage sister after her parents, Dudu Karataş (42) and Gökay Karataş (48), were detained on September 8 for helping refugees, Bold Medya reported.

The couple was taken into custody last week for helping Afghan refugees; however, during their interrogation they were asked if they were aiding members of the Gülen movement, a religious group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. The Turkish government accuses the movement of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The couple had set up a WhatsApp group with several other people who wanted to help refugees. All were detained, and their four-day detention was extended a further four days. Gökay Karataş is disabled, and their daughter relies on her mother to meet her daily needs.

There have been previous cases in which the parents of disabled children were detained for long periods of time or arrested. The parents of Ayşe Sena, a two-year-old girl with Down syndrome, were arrested one month apart in 2017. Separated from her parents, Ayşe Sena’s condition deteriorated rapidly and she suffered from serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney failure.

A mother of four was detained during a visit to her husband in prison in 2017. Her four children, including one with Down syndrome, were left in the parking lot of Sincan Prison in Ankara after their mother was taken into police custody. She was later arrested and sent to a prison in Tokat, 370 kilometers from Ankara.

A video showing the four children left alone in tears in front of the prison after their mother was detained went viral on social media, prompting an outcry. In both cases the parents were accused of terrorism because of their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and over 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.” The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.

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