There were a total of 743 children jailed along with their mothers in Turkey’s prisons as of Nov. 16, according to a report released by the Human Rights Association (İHD), the aktifhaber news website reported on Thursday.
Lawyer Ercan Yılmaz, an official from the Diyarbakır branch of the İHD, said the children who are jailed with their mothers due to a crime they have not committed are subjected to a number of rights violations in prisons.
Mothers of most of the children in Turkish jails have been arrested as part of a government crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, and most of them are in pre-trial detention and not yet convicted of a crime.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup, which claimed the lives of 249 people, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.
Yılmaz said most of the children in jails are aged between 0 and 6 and that they get complaints from prisons saying that insufficient and low-quality food is given to these children. He said the children in jails are not even given basic foods required by children such as milk and that they are forced to eat the same meals as the adults.
“If there are 25 adults and three children in a prison cell, food is given to the 25 adults without taking the three children in consideration. So, a mother has to share her food with her child,” said Yılmaz.
Around 10,000 women including pregnant women and women who have just given birth as well as those with small children have been jail due to alleged Gülen links since the botched coup.
The lawyer also said the jailed children do not have playgrounds in the prison and are subjected to the same treatment as their mothers.
According to the Turkish Penal Code’s Article 5275, “the sentence of imprisonment is set aside/postponed for women who are pregnant or who are within six months of delivery.” Experts say that according to the law, the arrest of pregnant women and those who have infants younger than six months of age is not possible at all. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) also takes born or unborn children under protection.
However, in many 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.