Turkish authorities arrest pregnant Turkish asylum-seeker pushed back by Greece

A four-months-pregnant woman was arrested on Friday in Turkey’s Izmir province after being pushed back from Greece, where she had fled to seek asylum, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Sevda Ersoy tried to cross the Aegean Sea with her 6-year-old daughter but was pushed back by Greek coast guards and was arrested upon return. Accused of links to the Gülen movement, Ersoy had previously been sentenced to seven years, six months in prison.

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 Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures stipulates that even if a pregnant woman is convicted, her sentence shall be postponed. According to the law, “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.”

Despite the regulations several pregnant women have recently been arrested for links to the movement.

Ersoy was accused of working at a private dormitory linked to the movement and of using the ByLock smartphone application, which has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

After learning of her pregnancy, Ersoy decided to leave the country so she would not have to raise her children in prison.

Purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown took dangerous journeys across the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Some were arrested by Turkish security forces; some were pushed back to Turkey by Greek security; and others perished on their way to Greece.

The purge victims had to leave the country illegally because the government had revoked their passports.

According to a Eurostat report for 2008-2020, Turkish citizens are among the top asylum seekers in EU countries, ranking seventh in a list of countries whose citizens sought asylum in the EU in 2020

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!