IFEX kicks off campaign for imprisoned Turkish teacher and baby

A global network promoting free expression, IFEX, launched a signature campaign, calling for the freedom of Turkish teacher Ayşe Çelik, who last week was imprisoned along her six-month-old child on charges of ‘terrorist organization propaganda,’ after speaking up against civilian deaths taking place in Turkey’s southeast on a TV show.

Ayşe Çelik, a teacher from Diyarbakır, had called into a popular night show, ‘Beyaz Show,’ by telephone on Jan. 8, 2016, at a time of heightened conflict in Turkey’s Southeast between Turkish forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

‘Are you aware of what’s going on in the Southeast Turkey? Unborn children, mothers, people are being killed here… the things happening here are not reflected on TV screens or on the media. Don’t be silent… see, hear and lend a hand to us. It’s a pity, don’t let those people, those children die; don’t let the mothers cry anymore,’ the teacher had said, in reference to the civilian casualties of the ongoing conflict.

Çelik was given a 15 months sentence under article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law for ‘making terrorist organisation propaganda,’ on April 26, 2017; however her sentence was postponed on account of Çelik’s pregnancy.

Çelik, along with her six-month-old, began serving her prison sentence. Çelik had applied to Turkey’s Constitutional Court to appeal her sentence; however, it has remained unanswered by the country’s top court.

“Her Appeal to the Constitutional Court remains unanswered. Ayşe went to prison together with her baby Deran on April 20, 2018. At the moment, there is only one authority to stop the situation: Constitutional Court can make a precaution decision,’’ the IFEX petition says, which is calling for 100,000 signatures.

Full text of the petition is as follows:

“Teacher Ayşe was tried at Bakırköy No.2 Heavy Penal Court because of the sentence she said “Do not let children die, do not let mothers cry”, during Beyaz Show entertainment program; together with 38 people who shared her crime (!?) repeating the same sentence.

“While others were acquitted, Ayşe Çelik was sentenced to 15 months of imprisonment. The tragedy is that she was sentenced not due to what she said, but what she did not say! The accusation was “Not mentioning the truth which was well known by all”.

“Appeal Court approved the decision. Her Appeal to the Constitutional Court remains unanswered. Ayşe went to prison together with her baby Deran on April 20, 2018. At the moment, there is only one authority to stop the situation: Constitutional Court can make a precaution decision.

“We need 85.000 more signatures. Come on, be one of them and contribute to receive 2nd, 3rd, 4th, … … 84.999, 85.000th participations.

In a 28-page report issued on Tuesday the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) noted the following points concerning the detention, arrest and torture of pregnant women and children in Turkey in 2017: “OHCHR estimates that approximately 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, including about 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth.

“OHCHR documented at least 50 cases of women who had given birth just prior to or just after being detained or arrested. OHCHR received a report concerning a woman who was sexually assaulted by a police officer during arrest. Moreover, NGOs brought to the attention of OHCHR at least six cases of women who were detained while they were visiting their spouses in prison. They were either detained together with their children or violently separated from them.”

Since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 more than 17,000 women accompanied by 705 babies have been jailed over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The women are accused of providing scholarships, arranging sales, depositing money in private lender Bank Asya, sending their children to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, subscribing to the Zaman or Bugün newspapers or using the ByLock smart phone messaging application.

Women who go to hospitals seeking birth control or to give birth are clear targets for police officers. However, according to the Turkish Penal Code’s Article 5275, “the sentence of imprisonment is set aside/postponed for women who are pregnant or who are within six months of delivery.” Experts say that according to the law, the arrest of pregnant women and those who have infants younger than six months of age is not possible at all. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) also takes born or unborn child under protection.

Women who have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown have been 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 2017 by SCF revealed.

In several cases, women were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of a baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos.

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