Turkish government puts 705th baby behind bars on Children’s Day

On April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, the 705th infant went to jail with its mother, who is accused by the Turkish government of links to the Gülen movement.

According to a report by online news outlet TR724 on Tuesday, the number of babies accompanying their unlawfully arrested mothers in jail, put there by the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2017, has reached 705.

The latest infant growing up in jail is 2-month-old Uğur Akif Hazar, whose mother, Zeynep Hazar, was arrested by a Turkish court in Bolu province on Monday over alleged links to the Gülen movement. Uğur Akif’s 7-year-old sister was reportedly left with her relatives.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 20, 2018 said 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, calling on Turkey to end the practice of detaining pregnant and postpartum women.

In a 28-page reportissued on Tuesday the 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 the 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 conception.” 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.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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