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Young mother briefly detained over Gülen links during husband’s funeral

Esra Çelik with her son.

Thirty-year-old Esra Çelik, the mother of a 2-year-old son, was detained by Turkish police on Sunday as she was attending the funeral of her husband, Mehmet Çelik (30), due to her alleged links to the Gülen movement and after a brief police custody released on Monday.

Mehmet Çelik died during surgery because he could not get the appropriate treatment for lung disease as he had been wanted by police due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016, the tr724 news website reported on Sunday.

A funeral was held for him in the southern Turkish province of Hatay on Sunday, when police raided the cemetery where Mehmet Çelik was being laid to rest and detained his wife, Esra.

Esra Çelik was taken to Manisa province by the police.

The Çelik couple’s 2-year-old son Yusuf had to be left to the care of relatives.

The incident has attracted widespread criticism on social media.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a renowned human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) parliamentary candidate, was outraged by the incident.

“Detention in the cemetery and a 2-year-old child who is left without parents. There is no limit to this cruelty… I have no words to describe these scenes. Which conscience will not feel agony?” Gergerlioğlu tweeted on Sunday.

Thousands of people in Turkey face terror charges due to their links to the Gülen movement on the grounds that they provided scholarships, arranged charity sales, deposited money in the now-closed private lender Bank Asya, sent their children to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, subscribed to the Zaman or Bugün newspapers or used the ByLock smart phone messaging application, which is considered by the Turkish authorities as the top communication tool among the Gülen followers.

Since the failed coup attempt, women and mothers who have been jailed in the unprecedented crackdown on Gülen followers have been 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, said a report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear” released in April 2017 by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).

Women who go to hospitals seeking birth control or to give birth have also been clear targets of the massive the post-coup witch hunt conducted by the Erdoğan government.

In several cases, mothers were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of a baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many mothers were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos.

A 28-page report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in March 2018 highlighted the detention, arrest and torture of pregnant women and children in Turkey in 2017.

The report said that “OHCHR estimates that approximately 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, including about 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth. The military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On Dec. 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

[Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])

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