Woman arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges worries for the mental health of her children

Saniye Biçer, who was arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges, said in a letter to prominent human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that her arrest had torn the family apart and affected the mental health of her children, Bold Medya reported.

Biçer, who has three young children, was arrested on October 13 for alleged membership in the Gülen movement. Her husband had also been arrested on similar charges in 2016 and is currently serving a 13-year, six-month prison sentence in the western province of Afyon. In the letter Biçer said her two children were left without their parents, which has caused them a great deal of stress.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

According to Biçer, the children were being taken care of by their grandparents, who live in the northwestern province Kocaeli, more than 300 kilometers away. She said it was impossible for the grandparents to take the children to two different prisons to visit their parents, considering that prison visitation hours are limited. Travel hours between the two cities added to the financial and mental burden.

COVID-19 regulations do not allow for more than two people to visit an inmate at a time, which makes it especially difficult for inmates to see their families. According to Biçer, this made it more difficult for the children to see their parents together.

Turkey’s parliament passed a law in April that allowed the release of tens of thousands of prisoners to ease overcrowding in prisons and protect detainees from COVID-19. The bill excluded those imprisoned on terrorism charges.

Biçer said her arrest was a punishment of the whole family as the grandparents could not keep up with the care of the children. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools are providing online education, the grandparents cannot help the children with their schoolwork. “They don’t have the Internet or understand the idea of online education.”

Biçer asked for Gergerlioğlu’s help in obtaining justice. “I hope I will be heard by the authorities. My children are citizens of this country, their education and mental health are very important!” she said.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 540,000 people were detained on terrorism-related charges, more than 80,000 were arrested or imprisoned and in excess of 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.” The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.

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