One of the most alarming actions of the Turkish authorities is the incarceration of women who are pregnant or have just given birth. Some are incarcerated with their children and others violently separated from them. At this moment, seven hundred forty-three (743) children under the age of six are in jails across Turkey with their mothers, detained or arrested as part of the government crackdown on its dissidents. One hundred forty-nine (149) of these children are infants under a year old. “This is simply outrageous, utterly cruel, and surely cannot have anything whatsoever to do with making the country safer” as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein” also emphasized.
European Court Slams Erdogan Administration For Imprisonment of Kurdish Politician
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called on Turkey to release Selahattin Demirtas, the former co-chairman of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), who has been imprisoned for two years and sharply criticized his ongoing imprisonment.
In an unusually blunt statement, the ECtHR portrayed Demirtas’s continuing imprisonment as politically motivated. While the court said Demirtas had been arrested on “reasonable suspicion,” the extensions of his detention lacks plausible justification.
In November 2016, Demirtas, along with other HDP Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag, have been arrested on the charges of having links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He faces dozens of years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors particularly charge him with instigating the violent anti-government protests in October 2014 when HDP supporters took into streets to protest the Erdogan government’s indifference to Islamic State (ISIS) onslaught on the Syrian border town of Kobani.
More than 40 people had been killed during Kobani protests across Turkey. Demirtas vehemently denies any role for the outbreak of violence. His imprisonment came when the Turkish government unleashed a massive crackdown on opponents in different quarters of the political spectrum, arresting tens of thousands of people, including HDP lawmakers and supporters.
Unlike its verdict and judgment on previous applications from Turkey regarding detention of journalists, the ECtHR invoked the 18th article of European Human Rights Convention in its recent decision, setting the stage for a potential diplomatic showdown.
The 18th article appears as binding for the countries against which the verdict was delivered. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outright dismissed ECtHR call for the release of Demirtas.
“[The extensions of detention] had pursued the predominant ulterior purpose of stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate, which was at the very core of the concept of a democratic society,” the top human rights court said in its statement.
“The Court therefore held, unanimously, that the respondent state was to take all necessary measures to put an end to the applicant’s pre-trial detention,” the court added, pressing Turkey to act swiftly.
In its articulation of the reasoning, the ECtHR referred to the “tense political climate” in Turkey, an element that “created an environment capable of influencing certain decisions by the national courts.”
If Turkey refuses to comply with the recent verdict, it would have grave ramifications for Turkey’s relations with the Council of Europe. Ankara may face sanctions in the case of non-compliance and even lose its membership in the Council of Europe, as the 18th article requires for the failing respondent states.
In a new round of crackdown, Istanbul police units have detained a number of academics linked with philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in prison for nearly a year, sparking criticism and condemnation from large segments of society, including leading business organization TUSIAD.
The new wave of arrests took place as part of Istanbul police’s efforts to dismantle Kavala-affiliated NGO Anadolu Kultur. Law Professor Turgut Tarhanli and Professor Betul Tanbay are among the detained.
“It is very sad to begin the day with the news of detention of many academics at a time when we were talking the return of scientists to the country. We owe the productivity of the lands in which we live to our culture that has become a shelter of science for centuries. We cannot progress by denying this!” Erol Bilecik, the head of the Turkish Industry and Business People’s Association (TUSIAD) wrote on Twitter, expressing his dismay.
Kavala, a secular and pro-Western activist, was imprisoned last year. Despite calls from the international community, the Turkish authorities did not allow his release.
Co-Chair of pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) pointed to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as someone who pulled the strings behind a massive crackdown that targeted more than a 100 politicians and journalists in the latest wave last week.
In simultaneous raids, the Turkish police raided offices and houses of tens of politicians linked with HDP and a group of journalists in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir and other cities. The clampdown has aroused international and national criticism.
Sezai Temelli accused Erdogan of giving the order for the latest move that inflicted a new blow to the party already bleeding in the face of incessant waves of the crackdown. Former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were imprisoned in late 2016 and are still in jail over terrorism charges. Thousands of party members have been jailed over similar charges.
This week saw another phase. The Turkish government has already taken over the administrations of more than 100 Kurdish-run municipalities. The president has repeatedly shown no signs of backing down and signaled a further escalation of crackdown amid armed clashes between Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces.
A fragile truce between the PKK and the Turkish military collapsed in 2015 and renewed urban fighting gave Erdogan additional tools and excuse to crack down on the Kurdish political party which he portrays as the political wing of the armed militants.
The HDP rejects such blanket definitions and refuses association with PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state since the early 1980s to carve out an autonomous zone for self-governance in southeastern Turkey.
A round of peace negotiations in 2015 came to an abrupt end when Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its majority in Parliament in June 7 elections. When Demirtas cruised HDP to Parliament after an upsetting electoral victory that denied AKP the chance to form another single-party government. HDP’s unexpected triumph appeared to be a turning point after the president altered his policy course regarding the Kurdish conflict and adopted a security-first approach to resolving the decades-old issue.
The military solution, although tried during countless different governments over the past four decades, has ultimately proved to be elusive and untenable. The latest bout of violence reduced cities to rubble in many parts of southeastern Turkey, leading to the displacement of nearly half a million people. Both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations well documented the scale of devastation that swept the entire region, revealing the scope of its social and economic cost in fullest form.
Democracy is under threat all around the world. There are four stages to dismantling a democracy, starting with a charismatic leader who pledges to save the people pic.twitter.com/w9cIti4AsR
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) October 7, 2018
Democracy is under threat all around the world. There are four stages to dismantling a democracy, starting with a charismatic leader who pledges to save the people
Children struggle in the prison of Turkey.
The current panel execution law No:5275 reads” imprisonment is adjourned for women who are pregnant or who have not passed 6 months since birth”.
The mothers of 668 babies in jail committed no offense, they are not proven guilty of the offense, and their indictments are not written…
668 children in Turkish Jails… %64 of them are under the age of three…
72 children are waiting for their mothers outside, ages ranging from 8 months old to 14 years old…
13 children drowned in Aegean sea or Evros River…
International Bar Association Raises Judicial Independence in Turkey to UN
In a joint submission with two other groups, the International Bar Association (IBA) raised the issue of independence of judges and judicial independence in Turkey to a special rapporteur from the United Nations.
The dismal state of rule of law and the judiciary in Turkey continues to attract attention from relevant international bodies. In cooperation with the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) submitted a report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of Judges and Lawyers.
The report mostly focuses on the collapse of the rights and protections regarding the legal profession in a steady way since 2010. But, according to the study, the situation concerns Turkey’s judiciary, judicial independence and other legal rights have dramatically been shredded and worsened since the failed 2016 coup. Both during and after the state of emergency, members of judiciary faced political crackdown and imprisonment en masse.
“Prior to the failed attempt, the Turkish government had been increasingly interfering with, and exercising undue influence over, the legal profession using adverse constitutional and legislative reforms together with systematic attacks against judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other legal professionals,” the study noted.
Since the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has only sharpened its clampdown on its social and political opponents, as well as members of the judiciary.
Thousands of military officials, police officers, diplomats, academics, teachers, judges and prosecutors have been dismissed over coup terrorism-related charges with little evidence.
To this date, the report stated that “4,279 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed.”
“Five hundred and ninety lawyers have been arrested, 1,546 prosecuted and 181 convicted.”
The bloody July 15th coup attempt proved to be a turning point in the course of the crackdown and witch-hunt the AKP government had launched in the aftermath of the December 17-25 corruption probe.
It was a snowy January morning in Istanbul last year when Ayse, a 32-year-old primary school teacher and mother of two, kissed the kids goodbye at school and headed home.
She didn’t make it to her front door before she was surrounded by seven policemen, accused of membership in a terrorist organization, handcuffed and taken away. Two months after being jailed, Ayse was joined behind bars by her youngest son, Ali, then just 4 years old.
For another four months, she said, their lives unfolded like a horror movie. Built to hold 10 people, Ayse said, her cell was packed with 23 detainees. She remembers babies unable to get vaccines, and burning themselves with hot tea. She remembers, too, the traumatic cries at night.
“Loud music blared through our ward every morning, every morning I would wake up scared with my son,” she told Fox News in a recent interview from a refugee camp in Greece. “The ward was a very dangerous place for children. Our bunks were iron. One baby there was learning to walk and hit his head badly, other children were screaming. It was an incredibly difficult time.”
The case of Ayse and Ali is hardly unique. Based on monitoring government decrees and other reports from official sources, by the end of August 2017, advocacy groups had highlighted some 668 cases of children under the age of 6 being held in jails with their mothers. And 23 percent of those youngsters were infants less than a year old.
Several thousand children ages 6-18 are also being held.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry provided a somewhat lower figure, stating that a total of 560 children under the age of 6 were being held in Turkish prisons along with their mothers.
Mothers and their children continue to be rounded up with tens of thousands of other Turks following the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The country has, since that attempt, been in a legal “state of emergency,” one that allows the government to jail anyone believed to have ties to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement.
Whatever the number of prisoners, “prison is no place for children in any civilized country,” said Dr. Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think tank, He called the policy of jailing mothers and children without charge “a travesty of justice” that will have “lasting effects on the lives of innocent children.”
Other critics of Turkey’s policy noted that the imprisoned women and children were victims of guilt by association.
“What is striking about detained women since the failed coup is that some of them are simply wives or children of suspects, but not suspects themselves. This amounts to collective punishment,” said Merve Tahiroglu, a research analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based nonpartisan institute focusing on national security.
Ugar Tok, director of the Belgium-based Platform for Peace and Justice (PPJ), a human rights monitoring group focused on Turkey, said it can take six to 10 months of detention before the women in jail can stand in court. In the meantime, “the government prevents detainees from accessing lawyers and files in order to defend themselves.”
According to the World Prison Brief, as of October of last year, women comprised 4.4 percent of Turkey’s prison population. The official number of females behind bars is just under 10,000, but Tok estimates the numbers could be as high as 17,000.
Kam, a 34-year-old university teacher in İzmir Province at the time of her arrest in October 2016, said she was held for two months for investing – as thousands of other Turks have – in the Gulen-affiliated Bank Asya. She was kept in a cell with her 7-month-old son and two other babies, where they were prohibited from crawling on the floor. Toys were also prohibited, she said, and at times they could not access clean water.
“We were all treated like terrorists, we were isolated,” Kam told Fox News from Germany, where she and her family are now refugees. “We were all humiliated. … I don’t know what was worse, to have my baby in the prison or to have my other son, who was 11, outside the prison. When I saw him, he was changing.”
Case summaries and photographs viewed by Fox News, provided by international human rights investigators and lawyers, bring the grim statistics to life. They showed babies still on jail floors, with no play areas or facilities; women with chunks of hair ripped from their scalp in alleged prison mistreatment; and dozens of infants smiling before being whisked away to detention, where many are believed to remain.
Nurhayat Yildiz, 27, a housewife expecting twins, was arrested on Aug. 29, 2016, after boarding a bus from the northern Turkish province of Sinop, headed for her 14-week checkup. Nurhayat was detained and charged with Hizmet membership – because she allegedly had a popular encrypted messaging app, ByLock, on her phone. The Turkish government believes members involved in the coup attempt communicated through ByLock, and despite the app being commercially available to anyone, the government has systematically rounded up thousands of those who have it.
Yildiz’s supporters say she didn’t even have the app on her phone. In any case, at 19 weeks, on Oct. 6 that year, the first time mom-to-be suffered a devastating miscarriage behind bars.
“Nurhayat lost her dreams,” a prominent Turkish legal activist with Washington-based Advocates for Silenced Turkey (AST), who recently fled to California and requested anonymity for the safety of her relatives in Turkey, told Fox News. “And now she is suffering immense psychological problems, she barely talks. Her twins never got to live.”
Then there are stories like that of Filiz Yavuz, who was suddenly arrested – taken in a wheelchair – just eight hours after giving birth at a maternity hospital in the southeastern province of Mersin on Feb. 7, 2017.
“The police came for me at 3 in the morning. They said I was a terrorist because someone in my dormitory room from 2008 gave them my name,” Nur, 27, a human rights lawyer who was once a student at the Ankara University Faculty of Law, recalled of that frightful morning on Jan. 18, 2017. That’s when she was whisked from her home in the city of Eskisehir to a dark detention cell.
Nur considers herself one of the lucky ones. She was released by a judge after five days due to her severe asthma and a heart condition. She quickly boarded a smugglers’ boat. Today, Nur – from the safety of the United States – is trying to draw attention to the plight of other detained moms, their children and other of pregnant women who she says have suffered miscarriages amid the psychological ordeal of arrest and captivity.
Turkey’s Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Turkish officials have consistently defended the widespread arrest and detention of thousands of Turkish citizens, including women and children, as vital to national security. They also insist that the detainees are being held in compliance with international law.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which monitors the health and well-being of detainees in crisis spots around the world, confirmed it is not currently present in Turkey, and thus cannot monitor the situation.
But that situation remains a cause of concern for many human rights groups, which routinely spotlight the seemingly arbitrary detainment of Turkish citizens.
“ Following the coup attempt in July 2016, tens of thousands of people have been detained. The vast majority are not accused of participating in the events of the coup and in many cases that Amnesty International has examined there is no credible evidence of criminal acts,” a spokesperson for that group told Fox News.
Turkish police detained 47 protesters in the capital Ankara on 23 July, for demonstrating in support of two teachers arrested for going on a hunger strike. The teachers went on hunger strike after being dismissed from work, along with around 150,000 state employees, as part of President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown since the attempted coup last July.