Thousands of women in Turkey, many with small children, have been jailed in an unprecedented crackdown and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons as part of the government’s systematic campaign of intimidation and persecution of critics and opponents, a new report titled “Jailing Women In Turkey: Systematic Campaign of Persecution and Fear” released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.
The motivation behind Turkey’s deliberate policy of imprisoning women who, in some cases, have just given birth or are pregnant, appears to be creating a chill factor in Turkish society and muzzling dissenting and critical voices, SCF said.
In several cases SCF has identified, women were detained in the hospital immediately after the delivery of her baby and before they had a chance to recover. Many women were jailed as they were visiting their imprisoned husbands, leaving the children stranded in the ensuing chaos in the criminal justice system that was abused by the government to punish critics.
In one case, a woman lost her sanity under torture while in police detention, yet she was thrown back into prison, despite a diagnosis to that effect. Another woman was jailed because her husband, a journalist, remained at large. In many cases, the government has jailed the wives of businessmen who are seen as supporting the opposition to Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in addition to seizing all their businesses and personal assets.
“This practice of deliberate targeting of women sends a warning message across the board that nobody will be safe from the wrath of President Erdoğan and his government,” Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of SCF, has said.
“This is clearly in breach of Turkish law as well as rules and regulations that Turkey has committed itself to complying with as a member of various intergovernmental organizations,” he added.
The shameful practice of jailing of women from judges to journalists, from teachers to doctors, in big numbers has added a new dimension to the massive government witch-hunt that has been launched against critics, mainly targeting members of civic group the Gülen movement.
None of the women has any criminal record but now face criminal charges just because the government declared them to be terrorists and coup plotters overnight. They are not yet convicted, and in most cases, not even indicted, but have been put in pre-trial detention as punishment.
In many cases SCF documented, the women’s physical and mental health deteriorated rapidly after they went through abuse, isolation, poor diet and hygiene, lack of access to health care and the psychological trauma of incarceration. The arbitrary detention of women in big numbers has taken a toll not only on jailed women but also on their children and family members.
SCF said the cases represented in its report are only a tip of the iceberg as many cases are not reported because of the fear of further persecution on the part of victims or their family members. Even the cases that have been uncovered so far, some identified with full names and others only by initials to protect their identities, are enough to tell the horrifying picture in Turkey, said SCF.
“President Erdoğan, who leads this witch-hunt campaign and his associates in the government must be held accountable for this appalling practice that result in a devastating impact on the well-being of women and their children in Turkey,” added the organization.
The SCF report can be accessed here.