Turkey’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin has accused women who have links to the faith-based Gülen movement of having babies on orders from the movement to create the perception that pregnant women are jailed in Turkey.
Zengin’s controversial remarks came during a recent show on TV Net at a time when Zengin was already under fire due to her remarks denying the practice of strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers despite the accounts of dozens of victims.
The Gülen movement is accused by the AKP and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labelled a terrorist organization. The movement, however, strongly denies any involvement in the failed coup or any terrorist activity.
During the TV program, Zengin said, “These people are having babies based on orders so they can say that there are pregnant women and women with infants in prison.”
In a widespread crackdown launched by the AKP government in the aftermath of the coup attempt, hundreds of thousands of people have been investigated and thousands have been jailed on terrorism charges due to their links to the Gülen movement. Ailing people, elderly people, pregnant women and women with newborn babies have been among those who were sent to jail as part of the post-coup crackdown.
On the same program Zengin also reiterated her earlier remarks, claiming that honorable women would take immediate legal action if they had been subjected to strip-searches.
The AKP lawmaker, known for her hawkish views against Gülen movement followers, caused an uproar last week after describing the victims of strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers as “dishonorable” for failing to immediately report such incidents to the authorities.
Zengin has been denying reports and the statements of dozens of women who made headlines in December concerning the demeaning practice.
“Criminal complaint takes place right after an incident. If you strip-searched a woman, she would immediately report her humiliation; she wouldn’t wait a year [to reveal it]. An honorable woman, a woman with morals, would not wait a year,” she said.
Following Zengin’s remarks, many strip-search victims including famous figures such as Turkish singer Selda Bağcan stepped forward and said they were subjected to strip-searches but could not even share the humiliating experience with their family for a long time, let alone take legal action.
In the meantime, an investigation has been launched into a Twitter user with the name “Mert Yaşar” due to a message he posted about Zengin’s remarks on women ordered to have babies, according to a statement from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday.