Emine Ceyran (35), who is in prison with her two-year-old son on trumped-up terrorism charges, in a letter to human rights defender and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu talked about her ordeal and appealed for justice.
Ceyran was first detained together with her husband Cihan Ceyran on February 28, 2018, when her younger son was only eight days old. They had to leave their elder son, who was five at the time, with his grandparents. Cihan Ceyran’s trial ended within a week, and he was sentenced to seven years, six months’ imprisonment on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to having worked at an institution that was associated with the Gülen movement. Emine Ceyran, who was also accused of the same crime, was released pending trial because her baby was so young.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a religious group inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.
Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the 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 over 150,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership to or relationship 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.
Emine Ceyran was arrested on the same charges on November 29, 2019. In her letter titled “The cry of a mother from a bottomless well,” she tells about the hardships her sons are suffering. Two-year-old Ali does not have quality food, toys, a bed of his own or enough space to run around. He can have milk, eggs and chicken once a week but almost no beef.
Turkey’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded. Forty-two people are held in the same ward, three times its capacity. The cell where they sleep with five other people measures only six square meters. They have three bunk beds but no separate bed for Ali. The prison administration does not allow him to get toys, either. He tries to play with makeshift toys and objects that he finds like a squeegee.
Emine Ceyran says staying in prison has also hampered Ali’s development. He can’t speak yet and is aggressive. He hits himself, pulls his hair and wakes up screaming at night.
Separation from his parents has also taken its toll on their elder son Ahmet. He wasn’t able to see his parents for four months due to COVID-19 related restrictions. Ceyran says Ahmet shows signs of psychological problems: He has started wetting his bed, he frequently wakes up at night crying, he grinds his teeth and he has tantrums.
Emine Ceyran will appear in court in what is expected to be her final hearing on September 3. She says she no longer has the strength to deal with all that’s going on in her life and wants to be released at least to house arrest with an electronic bracelet.