Since the coup attempt on July 15 2016, Turkey has turned into a hub of people victimized by the purge carried out by the Turkish government. The ruling party of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Gulen movement of masterminding the attempt and launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Thousands of women in Turkey, many with small children, have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown and 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...
More than 17,000 women were detained in several cases in the hospital immediately after giving birth and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were arrested while visiting their imprisoned husbands ...
Thousands of women are imprisoned under false accusations and suffer under visiting rights restrictions, a lack of access to their rights & health care, ...
Poor conditions in Turkish prisons and detention centers have caused complications for expectant mothers or mothers with newborn babies. More than 500 babys and their mothers are deprived of required diet, vitamins, medicine, proper care and assistance during or after the pregnancy. They are also prohibited from engaging in exercise necessary for the wellbeing of themselves and their babies...

Ayşe Büyükgezirici, a nurse, is another victim of Erdogan’s persecution in Turkey. While she was pregnant, a public prosecutor in the northwestern province of Kocaeli ordered her detention as part of a prosecution. The court released her pending trial under judicial supervision that required her to check in with the police three days a week. Under duress and pressure, Büyükgezirici delivered her baby boy prematurely. Doctors needed to monitor the boy, named Yavuz Selim, on a constant basis, and treated him for anemia with regular injections every week.

While both mother and the baby were being treated, another prosecutor, this time from the province of Tekirdag, launched an investigation into her on similar charges and secured a detention warrant for her on February 15, 2017. Her lawyer challenged the decision, saying that a similar case on the same charges was already under way and presented the doctor’s report on why her and baby’s health required Büyükgezirici to stay in Balıkesir, her hometown. Yet prosecutor Sedat Tas insisted on her detention anyway and she was put in police custody along with the baby for two days. Later she and the baby were transported in an armored vehicle from Balıkesir to Tekirdag, a four-hour drive. Büyükgezirici was also separated from her two other children, aged 9 and 13. No information is available on her or baby Selim’s current status or their health

On November 3, 2016 Özlem Meci, a teacher, was arrested in the western province of Izmir on terror and coup charges. She was six months pregnant at the time of the arrest. Her petitions for release on the grounds of pregnancy were rejected. Meci gave birth to a baby on February 15, 2017 at Aliaga State Hospital while she was still in pre-trial detention at the Izmir Aliaga Women’s Closed Prison. Immediately after giving birth, her baby was taken from her without her consent and sent to a hospital in the town of Menemen, some 36 kilometers from Aliaga. She was robbed of her maternal right to hug her newborn baby. Her family was not even notified about the delivery of a baby until the next day. No explanation was provided to Meci or her family

In another case, police came to detain journalist Bülent Korucu, editor-in-chief of the critical national daily Yarina Bakis, which was shut down by the government in July, but instead detained his wife Hacer on July 30, 2016, just two weeks after the failed coup. The message the police were sending was that she would be kept as a hostage until her husband surrendered.

Hacer, a mother of five who had nothing to do with a journalism other than being an avid reader of the daily her husband managed, was formally arrested on August 9, 2016. She has been in jail without a conviction since then. Police went to the Korucu home several times afterwards, even threatening their children with jail as well. The EU Commission has called on Turkey to respect human rights in response to the arrest of journalist Bülent Korucu’s wife.

Nejla Akdag and her husband were working as teachers at a public school in the northwestern province of Edirne until the government launched a massive purge of members of the Gülen movement on trumped-up charges. Nejla was detained on August 30, 2016, but was released afterwards to take care of her ailing 86-year-old mother, Fahriye Asrak, who had cardiac problems and was paralyzed and bedridden. Nejla’s 83-year-old father also suffers from chronic heart problems and has high blood sugar. Nejla’s husband had left home to look for a job but was not heard from again after police searched their home on August 30, 2016.

Akdag was detained again on January 27, 2017 when police raided the home where she lived with her three children and elderly parents. She showed her mother’s medical reports to the police and told them that she had a sick mother and three children to take care of. The police said she would be released when her husband surrenders. Akdag was formally arrested three days later and sent to pre-trial detention after three days in custody. Her mother died only 10 days after her daughter was put in prison. Akdag’s two children reportedly refuse to go to school after twice experiencing the trauma of police raids on their home and the absence of both parents.

The abuse of women and children ranges from sexual abuse to physical torture and ill-treatment. Pregnant, elderly and sick women or women with babies were denied effective access to health care, their visitation rights were ignored and they were threated with the persecution of other family members including their children. This inhumane treatment leaves a mark on many women and children that in some cases may have a permanent effect on their wellbeing and health.

The international community must be mobilized to raise their voices against Turkey, and President Erdogan must be named and shamed for this unprecedented persecution of his critics and opponents. It is vitally important that intergovernmental organizations as well as nongovernmental organizations observe, identify, investigate and report these massive human rights violations in Turkey and hold those who act with impunity to account.

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