When will the world pay heed to the humanitarian crisis on Erdoğan’s home turf that engulfs more innocent people by the day, even crying babies?
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is infamous for encouraging Turks to reproduce like wildfire, urging the diaspora in Europe to “have five children, not three” and telling women in the secular state that Islam ties them to the “duty” of motherhood.
He’s not so fond of babies with alleged coup conspiratorial ties.
Yes, Erdoğan’s paranoid purge of perceived political enemies has landed hundreds of babies and toddlers behind bars, sometimes arresting mothers on the very day they have given birth.
Turkey’s Ministry of Justice told an inquiring opposition lawmaker last May that at least 560 children 6 years of age and under were being held in overcrowded prisons as authorities continue to round up perceived foes after the July 2016 coup attempt. Sometimes the mother has been arrested while pregnant; sometimes both parents were seized and there’s no one left in the family to care for the children. More than 100 incarcerated kids were infants under a year old.
Activists have been using the hashtags #668babies, or #668bebek, to reflect the mounting total of known tots behind bars.
In August 2016, Turkey cleared out 10 of thousands of inmates, some convicted of violent crimes, to make room for more political prisoners. An IRIN investigation released last September uncovered reports of torture, withholding water, lack of access to medical care and sexual abuse among the mistreatment; one woman who suffered internal bleeding after a beating was scheduled by prison officials to see a doctor two months later. To add insult to injury, everything used by a prisoner from water to medical care to maxi pads must be paid by the detainee.
One young mother sentenced for taking part in a protest was sent to prison with her six-month-old baby, shoved into a cell built for eight that housed two dozen women. Her sister told investigators that the mother struggled to get baby food and supplies behind bars, and was once dragged by her hair down a stairway for refusing to salute guards.