Being the Other Child in Turkey

"Being the Other Child in Turkey" attempts to document with 146 photographs the severe rights violations experienced by the children of families who are exposed to social lynching and isolation, who are marginalized and whose futures are bleak.

The current regime in Turkey, supported by the State of Emergency (OHAL) and Statutory Decrees (KHK), which is still in effect de facto albeit discontinued de jure, has been carrying out an open and covert social genocide against some parts of Turkey for years. The members of the Hizmet movement, whose number reaches approximately 8.5 million, including their relatives, were exposed to social lynching, direct and indirect rights violations, and grievances that are difficult to compensate. Similarly, along with the policy of persecuting Kurds by denying their ethnic identity, discriminatory and oppressive practices against certain groups such as Alevis and leftists continue.

Babies and children have been the biggest victims of all these tribulations. Hundreds of thousands of children witnessed their parents being fired from their jobs, detained without even an investigation, and arrested on charges that were not even considered crimes under the law. Tens of thousands of children were forced to leave their country, risking their lives with their parents. 35 people, most of them children, lost their lives on these difficult journeys.

Laws protecting women with children were not implemented for women who were victims of the KHKs and OHAL. For example, in Article 16/4 of the Law No. 5275 on the Execution of Penalties and Security Measures, the execution of the prison sentence is suspended for pregnant women or women who have given birth in less than six months. Failure to apply this provision to women members of the Hizmet movement results in serious violations of rights against women and children.

Babies in the womb, newborn children, pregnant and postpartum mothers faced the OHAL/KHK genocide ordeal.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Justice, General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Houses (CTE), as of March 9, 2021, there were 345 babies in prison together with their mothers who were detained or convicted. Since 2016, some 864 babies and more than 3,000 children have been deprived of their childhood and freedom, forced to grow up with their mothers who are politically imprisoned.

While oppression and violence continue unabated, the barriers to access to health in prisons are increasing day by day. One of the groups most affected by these violations in the harsh environment of prisons is unavoidably fragile children.

The Ankara Medical Chamber (ATO) Human Rights Commission reported that during the COVID-19 epidemic, mothers did not want to keep their children in prison to avoid the risk of transmission of the disease to their children. Therefore, instead of keeping them in the harsh conditions of the prisons, they sent their children to their relatives outside the prison. Despite this, 1,941 children were in prison as of December 31, 2021.

ATO Human Rights Commission member Dr. Ayşe Uğurlu draws attention to the problems that may arise when babies under the age of 6 are forced to live in prisons where there is pressure and authority.

‘They must be under medical supervision’

Uğurlu stated that the children in prison cannot spend time with their peers and do not have access to age-appropriate items and toys. Moreover, children are forced to act like adults by growing up under the oppressive air of the prison. Children aged 0-6 are deprived of the nursery environment, which is very important for their development. Uğurlu said, “The opportunities for feeling free, walking and running freely are very low. On the other hand, they may face some obstacles when they need to go to health institutions. It is very important for children to be under the regular check-up of the doctor.”

Problems mothers encounter

Pointing out that the children who live in prison with their mothers cannot lead a good life, Uğurlu said, “They cannot have a healthy diet. Because they experience all the problems their mothers and other prisoners experience. They do not have access to milk, formula, or healthy diapers. They can’t get enough protein; they can’t eat meat. They do not have a healthy and balanced diet. There is little possibility of a healthy mental health.” Noting that children are also deprived of their right to education, Uğurlu said, “The most important thing that develops the mental health of kids between the ages of 0-6 is play. Besides, children should play with their peers. It is not hard to understand the kinds of difficulties children have to cope with, considering that even adults experience psychological and physical traumas due to the adverse conditions of prisons.” Prisons are a place of threat for children, Uğurlu said. For this reason, it is imperative to make legal amendments to reform the penitentiary system accordingly, he said.

Alongside the children in prisons, tens of thousands of children whose parents have been arrested are trying to hold on to life without their parents. In addition, thousands of children had to leave their country within their persecuted parents amidst the danger of arrest, marginalization and social lynching. In some cases, those who were imprisoned from family members remained in Turkey, while other family members escaped the same fate and tried to hold on to life in other countries. Families were broken.

The children of these families, a great majority of which are university graduates, have experienced severe psychological traumas due to the marginalization and social lynching they were exposed to as well as being witness to the arrest of their parents in front of them or having to endure strip searches when they go to visit them in prison.

“Being the Other Child in Turkey” attempts to document with 146 photographs the severe rights violations experienced by the children of families who are exposed to social lynching and isolation, who are marginalized and whose futures are bleak. It tries to interpret how the weak and fragile bodies and souls of these children are shaken by the gross violations of rights, the heavy ordeals they have to endure, by using the language of photographs.

The book “Being Turkey’s Other Child”, prepared by a team of 10 people consisting of activists, journalists, teachers, designers and rights defenders, aims to inscribe in history the suffering of children, who are the biggest victims of gross violations of rights.

4% Complete

Pregnant detainees and convicts lost their babies in their wombs due to violations of rights such as torture, ill-treatment and prevention of the right to treatment.

18% Complete

Children lost their lives due to traffic accidents while traveling to visit their parents or relatives in prisons.

1% Complete

Children whose parents were imprisoned were forced to work in jobs they did not know to earn their living. Inexperienced children have lost their lives due to work accidents.

1% Complete

During the hearings, pregnant women lost their babies in their wombs due to serious violations of rights.

2% Complete

Pregnant women taken into custody lost their babies in their wombs due to the torture they suffered in the law enforcement or the harsh conditions and ill-treatment in the detention centers where they were held for a long time.

3% Complete

Children whose parents were in prisons suffered psychological traumas and committed suicide as a result of the heavy pressures applied by the state and society.

18% Complete

Children, who had to leave their country with their families as a result of heavy pressures on the right to life, lost their lives due to the dangers they encountered on the escape routes.

20% Complete

Some children lost their lives because their right to access treatment in the country was restricted, and some because they were not allowed to go abroad for treatment.

12% Complete

Pregnant women, against whom an investigation for alleged membership in a terrorist organization has been launched, lost their babies in their wombs as a result of the sadness and stress they had to suffer.

1% Complete


82% Complete

The dates between April 2016 and September 2022 were taken into account in calculating the number of deaths.

  • 2016 – 10
  • 2017 – 13
  • 2018 – 25
  • 2019 – 14
  • 2020 – 13
  • 2021 – 6
  • 2022 – 1


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