A mother of three who was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement said in a letter that she had panic attacks due to being separated from her children.
In the letter, published by the Bold Medya news website, Ayşe Meleş said she had started taking anti-anxiety medicine. “I can’t take being in prison anymore,” she said. “I feel like I can’t breathe, and my heart is beating incredibly fast.”
Meleş said the separation from her children was the worst part of being in prison and that she could not wait to return home.
Meleş was arrested in September 2020 for working at a private student dorm linked to the movement. She was sentenced to seven years in prison. Her husband, Mehmet Meleş, was arrested in November 2015 for working at an association linked to the movement. He was sentenced to 19 years, six months and is currently in a prison in central Turkey’s Çorum province.
Their three children, aged 15, 12, and 9, were left to the care of their 82-year-old grandmother. The children struggled with their parents’ arrest and have received psychological counselling.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish 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 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.
The purge has damaged the unity of many families and left children to the care of relatives. Such separations have had a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of children. In cases where grandparents are responsible for the child’s care, they cannot meet every need, especially in education.
According to a statement by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as of November 15, 2021 a total of 319,587 people had been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.