Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the implications of the failed coup attempt on state and civil society institutions?
Regrettably, the attempted coup prompted the government to resort to much more extreme forms of repression against its real or perceived political enemies or anyone with dissenting views. The government's assault on both state and civil society institutions, particularly against the media and academia, goes far beyond reasonable limits. Hundreds of media outlets have been closed and hundreds of journalists arrested. What news does get reported is heavily censored. All of this has made it extremely difficult to report on the events surrounding the attempted coup and the dismissals, suspensions, and human rights abuses that followed. Most alarming, many of the institutions that the government still associates with the threat are those which would normally provide a structural defense against authoritarianism.
Some examples of the civil society institutions affected are NGOs, foundations, trade unions, and defenders of human rights. The 1,125 NGOs and 560 foundations permanently closed by government decree include hundreds benefiting women and children. Nineteen trade unions have been closed, while human rights defenders have been detained or jailed. In a few cases, they have managed to flee the oppression and re-establish civil society organizations in other countries, mainly in Western Europe or the Americas.
By exploiting procedural flaws in the rules and misusing its membership at the relevant UN bodies, the Turkish government has extended its massive crackdown to civil society organizations accredited by the UN. These include the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) and Kimse Yok Mu (KYM), all of them pursuing important programs and platforms for the empowerment of women.
Q: What is the situation of women who are in custody or in detention?
Persecution of women through the abuse of the criminal justice system targets all age groups, from as young as 18 to 86 years of age, aiming mainly at creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation which could facilitate the government's widespread and systematic crackdown on political and other dissent. Most of the persecution targets a highly-educated segment among women that includes professionals ranging from academics, teachers, doctors, judges and prosecutors. Increasingly women are also taken into custody only for the purpose of “convincing” their husbands fleeing persecution to either turn themselves into police or once under custody to sign false testimonies.
The Turkish Justice Ministry has so far failed to provide accurate statistics on the number of women deprived of their liberty, despite repeated requests put forward by several advocacy groups, based on relevant legal provisions. The government often claims there are no specific data on the number of women in prison and how they are placed in male prisons and claims it needs to work on several databases to compile such figures. The practice however appears to deliberately conceal information on the matter.
There are several figures reported in the Turkish media, which put the number of women in prison at 6,616 as of March 2016 and 7,894 as of November 2016. The number of women under custody pending trial tripled from 1,157 in March 2016 to 3,235 in November 2016. Currently, there are 18,262 women in jails across Turkey.
Q: What is CEDAW? And what is the concluding observation of the CEDAW committee about Turkey after the failed coup attempt?
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 19, 1979, coming into force as a treaty on December 3, 1981. CEDAW is often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’. It is one of the core international human rights treaties of the United Nations treaty system, which requires Member States to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. Today, it is one of the most broadly endorsed human rights treaties – it has been ratified or acceded to by 187 countries to date. And Turkey signed the CEDAW Agreement and accessed in December 20, 1985.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (hereafter the Committee) considered the seventh periodic report of Turkey (CEDAW/C/TUR/7) on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) at its 1415th and 1416th meetings, on July 13, 2016. In its Concluding Observations adopted by the Committee at its sixty-fourth session, as the crackdown on dissent in Turkey had just intensified, the Committee “[ … ] expressed its concern that those measures [by the government] could negatively affect the overall framework for the enjoyment of women’s human rights. The Committee further “urged the State party [Turkey] to uphold its commitment to human rights, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the preservation of the freedom of expression.” The Committee also called upon the State party to respect, protect and fulfill women’s human rights and to preserve the constitutional order, including the guarantees of human rights.
Q: Have any incidents been observed of sexual harassment or the rape of women in prisons?
Corroborating allegations related to human rights abuses taking place in the aftermath of the attempted coup is increasingly difficult, in particular when sexual attack or rape have allegedly been perpetrated. Sexual attacks and rape of men and women in prisons have however been among the highly prevalent forms of torture documented in several reports by human rights organizations.
Sexual attacks and rape of members of marginalized groups are not limited only within places where individuals are deprived of their liberty. Government supporters claimed openly that it is religiously permissible for them to rape women from marginalized groups, as a way of punishing their alleged membership to the Hizmet movement.
There are only six prisons (one being an open prison) in Turkey specifically build for women, while many women are currently held incarcerated in prisons built just for men, where generally male guards are in charge. Although women are kept in separate sections of these prisons, they in principle cannot enjoy their rights to the full extent, because of the lack of a set of facilities that can meet the requirements for women. These conditions imply an additional and unjustifiable penalty applied to women, along with increased likelihood that in a male dominated environment women become easier subject to sexual attacks and other harassment.
Q: How are such incidents reported by prison guards?
It is deeply concerned on an increasing number of deaths in custody in the wake of the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, taking place in suspicious circumstances and in a pattern of systematic recurrence. Serious allegations of ill-treatment and torture have emerged following the failed coup, including severe beatings, rape, verbal and psychological abuse, as well as denial of food, water and medical treatment. Many victims have appeared after detention bearing visible signs of ill-treatment and torture.
The immediate rise in the number of people who have lost their lives in detention in the aftermath of the coup attempt contradicts official statements which describe incidents as suicide. Relatives of most of the detainees claim that their loved ones were indeed not the kind of people to commit suicide, shedding doubt on the official narrative.
In a parliamentary session called by the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) in response to complains from prisons, the Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ revealed in February 2017 that at least five (5) women have died under suspicious circumstances at the women’s prison in Kocaeli’s Gebze district, during the second half of 2016.
Q: How is the access to justice and legal aid in Turkey?
The European Court of Human Rights and other human rights bodies have repeatedly held that denial of access to a lawyer during interrogation is incompatible with the right to a fair trial and that access to a lawyer in detention is a safeguard against ill-treatment. Following the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the government swiftly moved to severely limit this right, both in law, through decree laws and in practice through detentions, arrests, threats and intimidation.
By February  4,272 judges and prosecutors (close to two-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary) were removed over alleged ties to the Hizmet movement. In addition, 4,235 employees of the Ministry of Justice and 276 employees of the Council of State have also been permanently dismissed from their positions and their assets were frozen. At least 2,200 judges and prosecutors are jailed pending investigation, reportedly because their names appeared on a list of alleged Gülen supporters. On April 2, 2017, the Minister of Interior stated that 2,575 suspects were either judges or prosecutors. There are no accurate statistics on the number of detained judges; however, relying on the fact that 36.9 percent of the total number of judges in 2013 were female, the Journalist and Writers Foundation believes approximately 35 percent of all detained judges are women.
Q: Is there any discrimination within society? If so, how is that affecting social harmony?
It is further concerned about the constant encouragement of citizens to spy on each other, an environment which is inevitably inciting social division, fueling paranoia and fear that permeate public life and create an environment reminiscent of a “police state”.
Turkish government itself has admitted that people across Turkey have been lodging false complaints about others over alleged ties to the Hizmet movement to promote their own personal interests, sometimes purely for financial benefits.
The government has not hesitated to resort to less obvious methods of destruction of people's lives, such as the deliberate deprivation of resources needed for the physical survival of those dismissed and which are available to the rest of the population, such as food and medical services. Twelve businessmen were detained in the beginning of March 2017 in Kayseri province for raising humanitarian relief for families adversely affected by an ongoing crackdown on the Hizmet movement.
In addition to discrimination, dismissals of hundreds of thousands of civil servants and other professionals have been decided arbitrarily and contrary to the established rule of law principles. In its 2011 Report, the Venice Commission referred to the prohibition of arbitrariness as one of the important elements of the notion of the rule of law. It is noted, “Although discretionary power is necessary to perform a range of governmental tasks in modern, complex societies, such power should not be exercised in a way that is arbitrary. Such exercise of power permits substantively unfair, unreasonable, irrational or oppressive decisions which are inconsistent with the notion of rule of law.” The prohibition of arbitrariness is also a fundamental principle of fair process and the protection of privacy under international human rights law.
Q: What is the situation of Turkish citizens abroad?
The ongoing purge, taking place in an atmosphere of fear and paranoia under the conditions described above and further combined with a situation of total absence of the rule of law in the country – have contributed to a mounting psychological pressure on Turkish citizens, not only in Turkey, but also in many other countries.
Turkish citizens around the world show that many families, adversely affected by the Turkish Government's assault on participants of the Hizmet movement, and have in many cases found themselves stranded in foreign countries. The number of those who have increasingly resorted to psychological assistance and medication are on the rise.
As of May 2017, there are 695 cases (in 23 countries) where Turkish consulates have declined to provide consular services to Turkish citizens – including an alarming number of 76 (seventy-six) children who were denied access to birth registration and thus were born stateless. In addition, passports of 19 (nineteen) individuals were confiscated by Turkish representations without explanation, while in 10 (ten) cases Turkish citizens abroad in possession of valid passports/visas were not allowed to travel.
On the other hand, Turkish housewives in many countries, including Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Morocco, Angola, Myanmar and Kazakhstan are left stranded with their children in foreign countries after their husbands were either imprisoned or deported to Turkey following pressure from the Turkish government.
Based on government decrees and other reports from official sources, TurkeyPurge reported 138,147 individuals dismissed from their jobs and their profession altogether, 102,247 detained and 50,987 individuals arrested by the end of May 2017.
There are 113 cases of denial of passports and nationality IDs for newborns in 15 countries as of August 2017.
Q: How is the health and safety of women who are minorities or who are members of the Hizmet movement?
Equality requires health policy to be based solely on women’s health needs and not to be influenced by instrumentalization, indoctrination and politicization. In the context of women’s and girls’ health and safety, equality means the provision of differential services, treatment and medicines in accordance with their specific biological needs, in particular during childbirth.
In the aftermath of the July 15, 2016, attempted coup, bank accounts of dismissed or detained individuals were frozen, their salaries cut, their health insurance canceled, and they have lost all benefits related to their former employment.
Discrimination of women belonging to minorities and those allegedly members of the Hizmet movement are particularly evident regarding women’s right to reproductive health. Discrimination against women and girls, exacerbated in the case of women members of the above marginalized groups are leading to the violation of their right to health and safety and denying their right to human dignity.
In many cases, unborn children have not survived due to the victimization and psychological pressure the government put on their parents. For example, the government has cut off disability and social benefits to spouses or children of parents detained or arrested over alleged links to the Hizmet Movement. Children of individuals perceived close to the Movement are also denied health care in hospitals and health centers.
Lawyers, family members and human rights activists have disclosed serious allegations of discrimination and ill-treatment of women during pregnancy, childbirth and in particular the postpartum period. Cases of discrimination and alleged ill-treatment range from arrest of pregnant women, women in labor taken into custody, denial of medical services and detention/arrest of women during the postpartum period. The incidents listed below are only illustrative to a much broader pattern of serious violations of women's rights, also corroborated by media reports, including pro-government media.
Q: Are there any children imprisoned along with mothers who are allegedly members of the movement?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. The government has resorted to intentional methods and practices of violence that are particularly harmful and dehumanizing against alleged members or sympathizers of the Hizmet Movement, with the intention of causing humiliation, fear, and terror. In several cases brought to the attention of the JWF, children have died as a result of the immense psychological and emotional pressure, and some appear to have committed suicide. And also a significant number of infant deaths have occurred in the aftermath of the attempted coup due to the harsh conditions imposed on the mothers before and during the pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period.
Turkish children, both in Turkey and abroad are in so many ways victims of the “witch hunt,” the massive purge and suppression of the Hizmet Movement and its alleged members. Child victims are forced to stay in prisons, where conditions are not even adequate, healthy and humane for adults. So far, there are 668 babies jailed below the age of 7 with their mothers in precarious conditions where they are routinely denied the right to education and access to healthcare.
This discrimination and violence against communities and families means these children will not have the opportunity for an education nor the chance to earn a decent living and positively contribute in their respective communities. On the other hand, children who have any disability have the right to special care and support, as well as all the rights in the Convention so that they can live full and independent lives.
Punitive measures against children of individuals detained/arrested or dismissed over their alleged links to the Hizmet Movement are among the most deplorable in the long list of violations and abuses in post-coup Turkey. Disability allowances for children belonging to these parents are regularly cut off, and children with disabilities are sometimes denied the right to a family environment and le unattended after their parents are arrested.