At least 80 pregnant women have been arbitrarily detained or arrested over their suspected links to the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016, as part of the government-led crackdown targeting real and alleged members of the movement since the abortive putsch, the Bold Medya news website reported on Thursday.
The detention and arrest of pregnant women are part of the unprecedented crackdown carried out by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government that was launched immediately after the July 15, 2016 coup, despite Article 5275 of the Turkish Penal Code, which says “the sentence of imprisonment is set aside/postponed for women who are pregnant or who are within six months of delivery.”
The real number of pregnant women detained or arrested between July 2016 and July 2022 is estimated to be higher, Bold Medya said, considering those who chose not to come forward and talk about their persecution and those who didn’t want to be named due to the climate of fear in the country.
Many of those women have been subjected to ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents since the coup attempt, and they were also victims of slander, according to Bold Medya.
AKP deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin last year claimed that women who were jailed as part of the government-led crackdown on the Gülen movement deliberately conceive in conjugal rooms to create the perception that women in Turkey are jailed with their babies.
Pro-government media outlets also tried to cover up the injustices faced by the pregnant women by releasing news pieces on the claims using such headlines as “They get pregnant on order” and “Sisters give birth to conspiracy,” with reference to women jailed over links to the Gülen movement, Bold Medya said.
Some of the women spent nearly all nine months of their pregnancy behind bars, like Hatice Şahnaz, Şeyma Tekin, Elif Aydın, Ayşe Ateş and Beyza Demir, Bold Medya said, adding that Ateş and Demir were sent directly back to jail after giving birth in the hospital.
The babies of Nurhayat Yıldız, Gülden Aşık, Semra Yarış, Ayşe Bozbayır and Hanife Çiftçi, women suspected of links to the movement, died behind bars, Bold Medya further said in the report.
Housewife Yıldız was detained on the bus on Aug. 29, 2016, when she was three months pregnant and on her way to a private hospital in Samsun to find out the gender of her baby. Yıldız, who was arrested and sent to Sinop Prison, later found out that she was having twins. She lost her babies behind bars when she was 19 weeks pregnant.
The Gülen movement is a worldwide civic initiative rooted in the spiritual and humanistic tradition of Islam. The bases of the movement are diverse service projects that are initiated, funded and conducted by people who are motivated by the humanitarian discourse of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric resident in the US.
Immediately after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, which claimed the lives of 251 people, injured a thousand others and was put down overnight, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP government pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, labeling the group as a terrorist organization.
Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.