Children of parents jailed in Turkey’s post-coup crackdown becoming ‘suicidal,’ purged academic claims

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A former academic has claimed that children whose parents were imprisoned during a government crackdown in Turkey carried out under the pretext of an anti-coup fight since 2016 are becoming increasingly “suicidal,” local media reported on Friday.

Immediately after the attempted coup of July 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, inspired by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, labeling the group as a terrorist organization.

Calling the coup attempt “a gift from God,” Erdoğan initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Although both Gülen and the members of his group strongly deny any involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity, some 622,646 people have been investigated and 301,932 have been detained, and 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup, according to official data, while the government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.

Yasemin Ceylan, one of the thousands of academics who were fired from their jobs by government decrees in the aftermath of the abortive putsch, on Thursday claimed during a TV program that suicidal tendencies had increased among children whose parents were jailed after the coup attempt.

“These children come from a certain religious background. Their parents are in prison for religion-related reasons. For example, one of the acts that were considered an element of a crime was a preparation school educator teaching the students the Quran after working hours. Children who witness this kind of thing turn away from religion,” Ceylan said.

Such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institution linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines were accepted as benchmarks for identifying and arresting alleged members of the movement.

“We are in such a [difficult] situation that we aren’t even allowed to breathe at this point. The [government-led] torture is so systematic that we don’t know which person or incident to feel sorry for,” Ceylan added.

The purged academic, who spent a week in custody after being detained on March 8, 2017 and was sentenced to six years, three months behind bars, said her family was also affected by the AKP government’s post-coup crackdown.

“My husband also spent five and a half months in jail. I was pregnant with my second child at the time. I spent that period with visits to the prison, while having a high risk of miscarriage. I had a terrible pregnancy,” Ceylan stated, adding that her first child, who was over 2 years old at the time and is now 7, was still receiving psychological treatment for fear of being separated from his father again.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), previously said the arrest of parents, which shatters families, was a “method of punishment” systematically imposed by Erdoğan’s AKP government, which also sends them to separate prisons far from each other.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation.

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