A member of a human rights group that focus on violations of rights in Turkish prisons spoke to Duvar on the situation surrounding women prisoners and their children behind bars.
As Duvar reports that there are currently 548 children aged between newly born and 6 years of age, who are forced to stay with their mothers in Turkish prisons, Gamze Yentür from the human rights group ‘Görülmüştür‘ (‘Seen’) has underlined that the first six years in the life of a child is extremely crucial in terms of the developmental impacts that period is bound to have on her/his entire life.
Asked whether or not the young children had their own beds in prisons, she replied:
“They do not. And they can’t have their own meals either. It’s advised by experts, though, that children should be able to sleep in their own beds after the first three months. Their dependency during sleep time on another individual or on a particular object effects the quality of sleep and the process of learning during the day. Children who are staying with their mothers in prison have to share a single bed. As for the issue of nourishment, this is crucial especially for children in their phases of physical development. Yet, the children in prison are served only the things their mothers get. Although there is a legal framework regulating this, it’s not implemented (…) The authorities simply violate their own laws. Even in cases when milk is provided, it’s only one litre per week, which is not acceptable. Nourishment for the mother is equally important as she’s supposed to nurture her baby. They both are expected to adapt to undernourishment.”
On the problems concerning access to the outside world, Yentür said:
“Many children do not have access. It becomes possible only if there are relatives who can take them out. And then, some children may begin to have a negative perception of the prison and prisoners after they have encountered the outside world, and they may seek to live in that world. The children who are torn between the two worlds suffer psychologically. They get nervous and aggressive. On the other hand, those children who are not able to socialise have less experience than other children of same ages. This is likely to make them more vulnerable to abuse in the outside world.”
Asked about the availability of toys for children in prison, Yentür said:
“Toys are essential objects in the development of children. Toys, games and art objects are important for cognitive, emotional and social development, and for the development of communication skills and fine and gross motor skills. These are the means through which the creativity of children finds expression and develop. The unexpressed emotions, unuttered words and many needs find their way out through these. There are no childcare centres in most prison compounds either, and even in those which do have centres there is a tragicomic time limit of a couple of hours. They do not allow toys in the centres either. What’s even worse, the children have to play by themselves as they do not have play mates, or they just play with adults. The children who are not able to play with other children cannot learn how to share.”
Yentür also detailed the case of Rabia Bıyıklı, a political prisoner, who was forced to give birth with her hands locked in handcuffs.
“Rabia Bıyıklı, who had been forced to give birth in hospital with her hands cuffed despite a physician’s strong objections, was transferred with her baby to a prison 450 km away, crammed in a vehicle dubbed ‘coffin’, with her surgical cut still raw. The prison physician had given a report of approval for the transfer without even examining her and her baby.”