Mother of 2 hasn’t seen children in 7 months due to distance between prison and home

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Zeynep Köyden, a jailed mother of two, said in a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that she has not seen her daughters in seven months and requested transfer to a prison closer to her home in Balıkesir, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Köyden said she has not seen her daughters, aged 5 and 10, since she was arrested in July 2021, when the elderly grandparents of the two young girls were last able to bring them to the prison.

Köyden was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement and sent to Kayseri Bünyan Prison, located more than 800 kilometers from her home. “The grandparents are too old to travel the distance every week. If I am not transferred to a prison in Balıkesir, I won’t ever be able to see my children,” she said.

Although Köyden appealed several times to be moved, her requests were denied. “I am extremely stressed from not being able to see my children,” she said. “I’ve lost 15 kilos in prison because I’m devastated.”

Köyden was sentenced to seven years, six months for working in a student dormitory linked to the movement. Her youngest daughter was only nine months at the time of her arrest.

Her husband, Yasin Köyden, who was arrested on similar charges, is currently serving a seven year, six month sentence in a different prison in central Turkey’s Çankırı province.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 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 intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The purge has damaged the unity of many families and left children to the care of relatives. Such separations have had a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of children. In cases where grandparents are responsible of the child’s care, they cannot meet every need, especially in education.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on November 22.

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