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Advocates of Silenced Turkey started this petition to Senator Cynthia Jeanne Shaheen

Dear Honorable Senator Cynthia Jeanne Shaheen,

We are writing this letter to kindly request that you take action regarding abuses of women's rights in Turkey. As of today, more than 4,000 women are imprisoned as political prisoners due to their affiliation with the Gulen Movement in Turkey. Since July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, hundreds of thousands of people have been targeted, detained, and arrested due to their alleged affiliation with the Hizmet (aka Gulen Movement) Movement. Among the prosecuted are journalists, civil servants, teachers, politicians, academics, human rights defenders, public workers, and law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, torture and ill-treatment have become a dire reality in custody. As a result of those inhumane incidents, women have also escaped the country through the Evros River, and the Aegean Sea, so many deaths have occurred.

Especially after the attempted coup, the government has been taking dissidents collectively into custody and then sending them to jail with no solid proof. In some cases, women are arrested and tortured in place of their fathers or husbands. Because of their individual needs, women constitute one of the groups that suffer the most from this oppression. Prison overcrowding is another serious problem. Inmates often sleep on the floor or by taking turns. Therefore, it is difficult to claim that prison conditions are suitable for women.

We kindly want to underline the prison conditions for women in Turkey. Turkey has only a few prisons specifically designed for women, meaning that most female detainees stay in prisons built for men. According to the latest CEDAW report, there are many allegations of sexual harassment and violence amounting to torture and ill-treatment in prisons, and these claims are not appropriately investigated. "The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly." The convention aims to eliminate discrimination and inequality towards women. There is a particular emphasis on the rights and legal protections of pregnant and nursing women. It is stated that women with pregnancy and post-natal period should receive required free services like health care and adequate nutrition. Women in prisons face various types of harassment, for instance, in many prisons, unnecessary and excessively intrusive strip searches are conducted by male personnel, and security cameras placed in rooms–including those in bathrooms–are monitored by male guardians. Detainees have only limited access to personal care and hygiene products, which are often at risk of confiscation during ward searches. Female detainees are trying to make themselves heard by sending out letters. However, these letters do not appear in the Turkish press as a result of censorship.

Incarceration during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth is another issue that needs immediate attention. There are many instances where security officials wait at the door of hospital rooms once they are notified of the patients' registration to the hospital. Patients' medical conditions are not monitored, and they are deprived of essential medication and dietary supplements. Mothers are not allowed to nurse their babies during custody, and once they are arrested, their infant babies are also sent to jail. Currently, there are more than 864 children under the age of 6 (including infants) living in prisons.

Since July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, tens of women lost their lives during imprisonment due to insufficient prison conditions while they are hiding from the persecution or while fleeing from Turkey through the Evros River or the Aegean Sea. Please find below some examples of women who lost their lives due to the persecution since July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt,

  • Habibe Cinar: 31-year old teacher Habibe Cinar, who was dismissed from her job with a statutory decree after the July 15 coup attempt, died from cancer in the hospital where she was getting treatment. Cinar left behind two orphans, ages 1 and 5, and an incarcerated husband. Mrs. Cimen died on January 10, 2019.
  • Esma Uludag: Ali Uludag (38) had moved to Germany a while ago. His wife Esma Uludag (32), who was dismissed from her job with a state of the emergency statutory decree, crossed into Greece through the Maritza River with her three children. Before she could reunite with her husband, Esma Uludag died after a paralysis, followed by a heart attack on April 28, 2018. Esma Uludag was a physics teacher, who was working as a public servant in the district governorate of Izmir.
  • Halime Gulsu: English teacher Halime Gülsu (34), who had been taken into custody along with several other homemakers and female college students following a police raid in Mersin, lost her life in prison on April 28, 2018. It was revealed in media that she had lupus and was not allowed to take her medications or to receive any treatment. Furthermore, she was not released from prison despite multiple appeals. On April 25, Mrs. Gulsu was transferred from jail to a hospital. She fell into a coma twice after February 20, and, at one point, her tongue blocked her airway. Despite all these complications, she was kept in prison until her demise.
  • Hatice Akcabay: Teacher couple Murat and Hatice Akçabay (36) both had arrest warrants against them. They attempted to flee to Greece through the Martisa river, but their journey turned into a tragedy when their boat capsized around 1:00 am on Thursday, July 19, 2018. The lifeless bodies of mother Hatice and her one-year-old son Bekir have been located. Greek fishers found little Mesut's body after almost a week.

Last year alone, 440 women in Turkey were murdered by men, and at least 60% of these murders were committed by husbands, boyfriends, former husbands, former boyfriends, family members, or relatives, according to the 2018 report of the "We Will Stop Femicide Platform."[1] The murderers of 37% of the dead women went unidentified. These statistics were repeated in a different report, drafted by Sezgin Tanrıkulu[2], a deputy from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). The findings of that report included outcomes such as:

  • 15,304 women have been murdered in Turkey since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002;
  • 66 women were killed in Turkey in 2002; in 2018, the number of women killed was 440;
  • Turkey ranks 131st among 144 countries in the field of women's participation in the workforce and politics;
  • Participation in the workforce among women aged 15-64 is 34.6%. Men's involvement is 73.4%;
  • There has been an increase in the number of murders of women at or on the way to work.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists' report dated March 7, 2019, Turkey is the largest jailer of journalists in the world. It's no surprise that Turkey has the most female journalists behind bars. Fourteen of the 68 journalists jailed there are women; most detained on anti-state charges.[3]

Since March is significant for women's rights, we organized multiple events regarding women's rights violations in Turkey all across the United States. Please find attached copies of our nationwide signature campaign across the U.S.

We kindly request you to take action regarding this issue.

Thank you very much for your efforts in this matter.

Advocates of Silenced Turkey

Contact us Via

For more information, please find the links above;

  1. https://silencedturkey.org/massive-erosion-of-womens-rights-in-turkey 
  2. https://silencedturkey.org/ast-reports 
  3. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/turkey
  4. https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/AST_presentation_Persecution-of-women-in-Turkey.pdf
  5. https://turkeypurge.com/purge-victim-teacher-dies-of-cancer-report
  6. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/13911/turkey-women-rights-abuse
  7. https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/AST-booklet-4th-of-Final-version-WEB-VIEW-.pdf

    [1] http://kadincinayetlerinidurduracagiz.net/veriler/2870/440-women-were-murdered-and-317-women-were-sexually-assaulted
    [2] http://aktifhaber.com/genel/akp-iktidari-boyunca-15-bin-34-kadin-olduruldu-h129403.html
    [3] https://cpj.org/blog/2019/03/international-womens-day-jailed-journalists.php
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