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Remembering Babies and Toddlers in Jail on Children’s Day

Set Them Free volunteers in San Fransisco gathered at Civic Center/UN Plaza on November 20  to raise their voice on behalf of the unlawfully imprisoned mothers and their babies in Turkey. Here is a read-out of their statement:

November 20th is the United Nations World Children’s Day, which marks the anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On this significant day, we gathered here to speak up for at least 668 babies and toddlers in Turkey who are unlawfully imprisoned alongside their mothers. The majority of these mothers are among the 17000 women who have been detained as part of the massive political purge in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that “childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.” Yet we sadly observe that children as young as newborn babies are forced to carry the burdens of the adult life under the conditions of political oppression and violent conflicts. The state of emergency rule declared by the government of Turkey after the failed coup attempt has totally undermined the rule of law in the country, putting the most vulnerable ones into great peril. As we demand swift and fair trial for all the political prisoners in Turkey, we are especially concerned about the children between age zero and six who have been imprisoned with their mothers that are waiting for trial for more than a year now. We urge the judicial administration in Turkey to follow the due process and obey the national and international law that require trial without arrest or postponement of convicted sentences for pregnant women and mothers with babies. It is a shame for any country to arrest women right after delivery, let alone causing pregnant women to lose their babies under pre-trial detention due to abuse and maltreatment. 

The state of emergency rule in Turkey already makes it difficult to access up-to-date and objective information about the prison conditions from official sources. However, the reports by independent human rights organizations, testimonies from former inmates and the lawyers of current inmates give us quite a dark picture about the lives of babies and toddlers in prisons. They are forced to live in overcrowded prison wards without seeing the sky, they do not have enough space to crawl, they are not allowed to have toys, they are not given separate beds nor special baby food for their age. Their speech development is delayed due to constantly being shushed as the other inmates get disturbed when they cry. In other words, they are forced to suffer with the adults, like the adults!

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