Turkish children only allowed to see jailed mothers through Skype

Two mothers escaping persecution in Turkey and jailed in Malta for using false documents can only see their toddlers through Skype

The two toddlers are currently in the care of the FSWS and can see their jailed mothers through Skype for 30 minutes a day. The photos are being reproduced with the mothers' permission.
The two toddlers are currently in the care of the FSWS and can see their jailed mothers through Skype for 30 minutes a day. The photos are being reproduced with the mothers' permission.

Two mothers separated from their children last week after being jailed for using false documents to flee persecution in Turkey can only see their toddlers through Skype.

The mothers, teachers Rabia Yavuz and Muzekka Deneri, are currently in prison, having admitted to passport offences after being arrested in Malta on their way to Brussels.

The story about the forced separation of the two children, aged three and four, from their mothers has tugged at the nation’s conscience over the Maltese courts’ handling of such cases.

The young children were present in the courtroom on Wednesday as the women were jailed. The toddlers screamed helplessly as their mothers were led away. The children are now in the care of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services.

“They are currently being allowed to speak to each other via Skype for 30 minutes a day,” the lawyers representing the women told MaltaToday. They expect that there would be physical contact in future.

In an appeal application filed on Monday, the mothers’ lawyers, Gianluca Cappitta and Jason Grima, argued that the six-month jail term handed to them was excessive and said the women had fled to Greece and were on their way to Brussels to renew expiring documentation.

The mothers' lawyers are understood to be preparing a request for bail for their clients, pending the outcome of the appeal.

The women escaped to Greece from Turkey some 11 months ago to avoid persecution since they form part of the Gülen movement, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of a failed coup attempt in 2016.

They were on their way to Brussels with a brief stopover in Malta when they were arrested at the airport with false documents.

READ ALSO: ‘They left for a better life, not a holiday’ lawyer says as couples jailed over fake ID

Horrific persecution faced in Turkey

An active member of the Gülen movement, which is referred to by its members as Hizmet, with knowledge of the individuals involved in the case, explained the horrific background of persecution and torture to the story.

The individual concerned did not wish to be named for security reasons.

The story starts in 2013 when the Turkish police performed corruption operations against high-ranking bureaucrats, including some ministers and businesspeople. These operations made the government very uncomfortable and right after the operations, the governor and the police commissioner of the city of Istanbul, and all the police officers who were a part of the operations were dismissed from their positions.

“The Turkish government, under the control of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Hizmet followers of being in charge of these operations. He used media organs who sided with him to convince the general public that the Hizmet followers were behind these operations,” the source said.

President Erdogan also accused the Gülen movement followers of being the planners of the attempted coup on 15 July 2016 and provoked the general public against the Gülen movement. Followers of the movement were declared as traitors and enemies of the state.  

“Erdogan's government unlawfully declared the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization. Based on these unrighteous accusations, the government arrested thousands of Hizmet members, shut down thousands of schools, and imprisoned thousands of women and children, and killed hundreds of people in prisons, attributing their deaths to medical reasons,” the source explained.

The followers of the Gülen movement have been tortured and raped in prisons. Their properties have been confiscated, their bank accounts have been frozen and they have been disallowed from doing business. Currently the followers of the Hizmet movement are being taken into custody. The situation has become so extreme that even saying positive things about these people is forbidden and considered a crime.

“The Erdogan government's unlawful operations are not limited to Turkey. They work with the mafia to illegally bring Hizmet followers who are abroad back to Turkey. Hizmet followers have been kidnapped in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan and Senegal,” the group follower said.

As a consequence, the Turkish government cancelled the validity of over 140,000 people's passports to stop them from fleeing the country and that over 107,000 people have been removed from public sector jobs, including by emergency decree.

A report on the state of emergency issued by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) says that at least 5,000 academics and more than 33,000 teachers have also lost their jobs. There are currently more than 50,000 people in prison in Turkey, facing similar charges to those which the women would face, he said.