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"Women’s and Children’s Rights under Attack in Turkey"

“Set Them Free” aims to shed light on what is believed to be only a fraction of a widespread and systematic violations of the human rights of women and children following the attempted coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey. The purge in Turkey includes the intensification of the already established pattern of grave and systematic abuses against women, which constitute a clear violation of the principle of equal protection of the law and other relevant principles set forth in the United Nations Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Since the July 2016 attempted coup, women allegedly linked to the failed coup attempt suffer disproportionate multi-faceted discrimination, in particular as regards equal access to political participation, health, education, employment and justice, both in law and practice. As a result of this, tens of thousands of women, including housewives, journalists, teachers, academics, physicians, healthcare professionals and businesswomen, have been detained and jailed. Women human rights defenders, journalists and other women activists continue to suffer unique challenges, driven by government-promoted discrimination against women and stereotypes about their so-called “appropriate role”, including frequent demeaning statements about women who do not adhere to traditional roles. Credible evidence indicates that many of the detained women in the aftermath of the coup attempt have been routinely subjected to torture and ill-treatment and also been sexually assaulted.

Measures adopted under the state of emergency must respect the obligations of the Republic of Turkey under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In particular, sexual violence, and torture are absolutely prohibited in all circumstances and can never be justified, even during situations of state of emergency. There are serious allegations of and ill-treatment of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Cases 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.

Besides the 18.262 women, who are arbitrarily detained, the current situation reveals a disturbing pattern of human rights abuses against innocent children in Turkey and abroad. By the end of August 2017, six hundred sixty-eight (668) children under the age of six are in jails across Turkey with their mothers; hundreds of children living abroad are either born stateless or the Turkish consulates refuse to provide their families consular services. The authorities in Turkey have also began to remove children from their relatives and families, if the parents are accused to be the supporters of the attempted coup. Ignoring the plight and the situation of hundreds of thousands of children in Turkey is detrimental to the interests of human dignity and human rights as well as Turkey’s future.