Turkish authorities continue to detain and arrest mothers with babies

Yasemin Çetinkaya, a mother of two, was infected with COVID-19 while in detention in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, one of a growing number of Turkish women either pregnant or with young children who are detained or arrested in contravention of the law on the execution of sentences.

Human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said in a tweet, “[Çetinkaya’s] 6-year-old suffers from PDA [a heart defect], and the 10-month-old baby is ill and cannot get breastmilk. The children are not with their mother.”

In a similar development, Bold Medya reported that seven-weeks-pregnant Sohbet Aslan has been detained in Mersin, a city on the Mediterranean coast. Talking to her lawyer, Aslan said: “I don’t know why I have been detained. They haven’t yet asked me to give a deposition. I am pregnant and disabled. I have difficulty breathing. I have been hospitalized twice during my time here.”

Aslan’s lawyer said: “Due to a confidentiality order on the investigation, I don’t know what my client is accused of. … The place she is being kept in is not good for her or the baby’s health. She needs to be released as soon as possible.” He added that the authorities have asked for a four-day extension of her detention.

According to legal experts, the arrest of pregnant women or women with babies falls afoul of the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures, which stipulates that “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last year and a half.” But the detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with babies have been continuing unabated in Turkey.

HDP deputy Gergerlioğlu shared two more such cases on his Twitter account. Emine Örnek, the mother of a 4-month-old baby and a 5-year-old, was arrested on Sunday. Her husband said: “The kids were asleep. Two undercover cops came into the house. They insulted and intimated us.”

Yasemin Baltacı, the mother of a 9-month-old baby and a 19-month-old toddler, was detained today in the city of Mersin. The prosecutor in the case initially instructed the children to be put into the custody of the Child Services Agency. The baby is currently with her mother; the whereabouts of the other child is unknown.

Gergerlioğlu submitted a parliamentary question to Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül about similar cases. He asked if any investigations had been launched into judges and prosecutors who have approved the arrest of pregnant women or women who have given birth within the last 18 months for violating the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures. He also inquired if they have received secret instructions to approve the arrests.

Gergerlioğlu also filed a complaint with the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) claiming that by acting against the relevant laws and the criteria set by the European Court of Human Rights regarding arrests, judges and prosecutors have abused their powers and therefore need to be criminally prosecuted.

The detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children have dramatically increased in Turkey in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

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