Four-year-old Hifa Aydın has been showing signs of distress ever since both of her parents were arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges, Bold Medya reported.
Her father Adnan Aydın, 31, was arrested on April 13, 2018, and mother, Ayten Aydın, 33, on August 29, 2020, for alleged membership in the Gülen movement. After both parents were put behind bars, Hifa was sent to live with her uncles and aunts who take turns looking after her. Hifa was only able to see her mother once in three months, and her father once in five months.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
According to her caregivers Hifa had an emotional breakdown when she visited her mother in prison. They were separated by a glass panel. and Hifa started crying and screaming to hug her mother. However, the prison administration refused to allow the mother and daughter to hug, citing COVID-19 regulations.
Adnan Aydın was an accountant and Ayten Aydın was a mathematics teacher. They were detained on April 13, 2018 and were sentenced to six years, three months in prison for having the ByLock application on their phones.
Ayten Aydın’s sentence was postponed due to having a young child. The Supreme Court of Appeals recently upheld her sentence, and she was sent to prison in western Bursa province.
According to Hifa’s aunt, ever since she was separated from her mother, Hifa has woken up at night crying. “She was able to tell when she had to go to the toilet but now, she doesn’t do that. She used to be quiet and calm, but now she is agitated and angry all the time. She throws things around the house,” she said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch.
As part of the crackdown Erdoğan dismissed over 150,000 public servants including members of the armed forces, police officers, teachers, doctors and academics by emergency decree-laws, locking up tens of thousands and seizing their assets. The purge mainly targeted people who were allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement but included other people from a wide variety of backgrounds as well.
Children have been among the most affected by the post-coup purge. Some were separated from their arrested parents, some had to go to prison together with their mothers and others suffered from stigmatization by society.
In a similar case Saniye Biçer, who was arrested for affiliation with the Gülen movement, said in a letter to human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that her arrest had torn the family apart and affected the mental health of her children.
In the letter Biçer said her two children were left without their parents, which has caused them a great deal of stress. Her husband was also arrested on similar charges and is currently serving a 13-year, six-month sentence. Biçer emphasized that with the new COVID-19 regulations it has become increasingly difficult for their children to visit them.
In a letter to Gergerlioğlu, Nur Akkaş, a homemaker and mother of three imprisoned on terrorism charges, said her incarceration has scattered her children around the country, depriving them of a stable family life and taking a toll on their mental health
Akkaş said her three children move between various relatives who take care of them in the absence of their parents. Akkaş said her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia, farm-worker father and psychologically ill sister-in-law have been left to care for her children. She adds that this has taken a mental toll on both her children and her relatives.