Post-coup purge in Turkey leaves children parentless after mother and father are put behind bars

The Özonur brothers with their grandmother
The Özonur brothers with their grandmother


Date posted: August 18, 2020

Turkey’s post-coup purge is continuing to hit children, leaving them parentless in myriad cases, shattering their families, disrupting their education and upending their emotional life.

Enes (5), Mesut (7) and Tarık (10) are three of them.

Their parents are imprisoned as part of the sustained purge, which has been carried out since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and in which some 150,000 civil servants have been dismissed from state jobs and almost 600,000 people investigated, with half of them detained or arrested on trumped-up terrorism-related charges.

Enes, Mesut and Tarık have been fatherless since February 12, 2017, when their father, Murat Özonur, was arrested on accusations of membership in the Gülen movement, a faith-based dissident group and the nemesis of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The post-coup purge, although negatively affecting all dissident groups, hit the movement, inspired by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom President Erdoğan accused of masterminding the failed coup, the hardest. Gülen categorically denies any involvement in the coup attempt.

Their mother, Dilek Özonur, was arrested on May 28, 2020 on similar charges. They are being held in separate prisons in the Aegean city of Manisa, where the Özonur family lives. The three children have been left to the care of their grandmother (70) and grandfather (72).

“I feel at a loss as to how to console them,” says the grandmother, adding, “Since I myself am unable to grasp why their parents were arrested, how can I get them to make sense of their situation?”

“My daughter and son-in-law were wrongfully and unjustly arrested. I cannot express how sad I am. I cry every day without letting my grandsons know it. We try to look after them without hurting their feelings or breaking their hearts. Had their parents deserved this punishment, I would not have felt so heartbroken.”

Although gaining momentum after the abortive coup, the persecution of members of the Gülen movement started well before it. President Erdoğan began to target the Gülen movement after what is widely known as the December 17 and 25, 2013 corruption investigations that implicated him, four of his ministers and his close associates.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist plot aimed at overthrowing him, Erdoğan whitewashed the accusations, purging and eventually imprisoning all the police officers and prosecutors involved in the probes. Then he designated the movement a terrorist organization and deemed any connection to the movement on par with membership in a terrorist organization, thereby making Gülenism a crime by association.

Dilek and Murat Özonur were convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, that is, the Gülen movement, based on informant testimony and the use of a messaging application called ByLock. Dilek was sentenced to six years, three months and Murat to eight years. Their sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which means the Özonur brothers will be separated from their mother for four years and from their father for three more years in accordance with Turkey’s regulations on the execution of sentences.

“They know their parents are in prison and that people who commit crimes such as theft and murder are sent to prison. The younger ones behave very maturely; yet they avoid speaking. Sometimes they wonder why their parents are there and what they did to deserve being locked up,” says the grandmother.

The Özonur brothers are not an exception. There are many other children who have been likewise separated from their parents. Caught between loving their grandchildren and caring for them, the grandparents who have to take care of their young grandchildren despite their advanced age and in some cases serious disease, making them dependent on the help of others, have also suffered some sort of trauma.

Ahmet Eşref Deveci, 5, is another example. After his parents Abdullah and Dilek Deveci were detained in the southeastern city of Gaziantep on July 8, 2020 on accusations of membership in the Gülen movement and formally arrested shortly thereafter, he was handed over to the care of his grandparents, with the grandfather struggling with bladder cancer for the last six years.

The two sons of Emine and Hamit Eker are another case in point. They have been taken care of by their grandmother Zeynep and grandfather İdris since their parents were arrested on March 9, 2018 and sentenced to eight years, six months in prison on Gülenist charges. Their sentences were also upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Zeynep Eker and grandsons
Zeynep Eker has to look after her two young grandsons.

Ömer (14), Nihal (10), Bilal (8), Fatma Nur (5) have also been left behind by their imprisoned parents to be looked after by grandparents. They have been living with their grandparents Ümmü and Ali Tüter in the Aegean city of Denizli for three-and-a-half years, since their parents, Kamile and Ali Tüter, were arrested on July 28, 2016. They are incarcerated in separate prisons in two different cities hundreds of kilometers apart, the mother in İzmir, the father in Afyon.

Ümmü and Ali Tüter with their four grandchildren
Ümmü and Ali Tüter with their four grandchildren

In some other cases, children have to accompany their mother to prison if they are too young or lack someone to look after them. Azra Kaya, the one-and-a-half-year-old daughter of Leyla Kaya who is still being breastfed, had to accompany her mother to prison. Her mother was detained in Bursa on July 9 and arrested the next day, also on charges of Gülenist links.

The detention and arrest of pregnant women and mothers with young children have seen a dramatic increase in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Currently, more than 700 infants are currently accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons.

The post-coup purge is continuing unabated despite objections by international courts and organizations. A UN body recently found that people with alleged links to the Gülen movement are being targeted on the basis of their political or other opinions, constituting a prohibited discriminatory ground according to UN human rights conventions.

According to the same body none of the activities attributed to members of the Gülen movement could be construed as criminal acts, but rather as the peaceful exercise of rights granted under human rights treaties, finding that the deprivation of liberty due to Gülen links on similar grounds was arbitrary and lacked a legal basis.


Related News

Peace and prosperity for Turkey lies in philosophy of Nursi says Altan Tan

On one hand he is a devout Muslim, and former member of the conservative Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), which was thrown out of the government in 1997 after a military memorandum, commonly known as the February 28 post-modern coup. Equally important for Tan is his identity as a Kurdish political figure, seeking political rights for his people and an end to conflict between armed rebels and the state.

Antioch came together over Iftar

FAZİLET CANDAN – ANTIOCH Ramadan brings peace, mercy and blessings to the society. One good example if this was an iftar in Antioch, Turkey, where Alevite and Sunni Muslims, Jews, and Christians came together. Antioch has been remembered because of terrorism and some political incidents in the city. However, Alevites and Sunnis, Christians and Jews […]

Zaman Editor-in-Chief Dumanlı faces probe over ‘insult’ to Erdoğan in news report

An investigation has reportedly been launched into Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a news report that appeared on the website of the daily.

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences and Condemnation of the Terrorist Attack in Istanbul

Fethullah Gülen: I condemn, in the strongest terms, the cruel terrorist attack carried out beside the Istanbul Beşiktaş Football Stadium that cost the lives of 44 of Turkish citizens, the majority of whom are members of the security forces.

Pro-Gov’t Columnist Suggests Setting Turkey’s Silivri Prison Ablaze To Kill Inmates From Gülen Movement

Fatih Tezcan, a pro-government public speaker and columnist, said in a video message posted on social media that people should gather in front of Silivri Prison, which mainly hosts people jailed over links to the Gülen movement, and set it on fire, similar to the Madımak Hotel in Sivas when an angry mob in 1993 torched the hotel, killing 37 people, mostly members of the Alevi sect.

Turkey needs a new constitution to save its democracy

Until recently Turkey was seen as an example of a country that prospered while maintaining a democratic government run by observant Muslim leaders. No longer. A small group within the government’s executive branch is holding to ransom the entire country’s progress. The support of a broad segment of the Turkish public is now being squandered, along with the opportunity to join the EU.

Latest News

This notable Pocono resident has been living here in exile since 1999

Logistics companies seized over Gülen links sold in fast-track auction

That is Why the Turkish Government could Pay 1 Billion Euros

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

In Case You Missed It

International symposium on the Hizmet Movement and Peacebuilding

Guinean MFA: Our People Fond of Turkish Schools

Half a million people in Turkey subject to prosecution over Gülen links: ministry

Fethullah Gulen Condemns the Terrorist Attack in Lahore, Pakistan and Extends Condolences to Relatives of Victims

Gülen denies ‘groundless’ Stratfor claims of pressure on AK Party

Watson: My expressions were twisted by Sabah Daily

Turkish festival brings students from 27 countries to Ethiopia

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News