Woman arrested on Gülen links says in letter her children were left to the care of relatives

A woman who was arrested due to alleged links to the Gülen movement said in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that her children had been left to the care of relatives, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Beyza Yıldırım said after she was arrested along with her husband, her 7-year-old daughter was sent to live with her aunt, while her 13-year-old son was sent to live with his uncle. “Why won’ they [the authorities] allow me to be with my children while my husband is imprisoned?” she said. “They can’t even come to visit me, and I’m afraid my children will grow up motherless.”

Yıldırım was a teacher before she was summarily dismissed by a government decree. She was briefly detained in 2017 and later sentenced to six years, three months in prison. Accused of working at a private school linked to the Gülen movement, Yıldırım and her husband decided to leave the country.

Her husband, Ali Yıldırım, was also sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison.

The couple left for Greece with their children but were pushed back to Turkey and arrested in the border city of Edirne.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current president Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. The government intensified the crackdown following the coup attempt in July 2016.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced in November.

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.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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 forces and others perished on their way to Greece.

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

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