Mother-of-2 hasn’t seen children for 7 months due to distance from prison to home

Zeynep Köyden, an imprisoned mother of two, said in a letter Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu that she has not seen her daughters for seven months and requested that she be transferred to a prison closer to her home in Balıkesir.

Köyden said she had not seen her daughters, aged 5 and 10, since her arrest in July 2021, when the two girls’ elderly grandparents were able to bring them to jail for the last time.

Köyden was arrested for alleged links to the Gülen movement and sent to Kayseri Bünyan prison, located more than 800 kilometers from her home. “The grandparents are too old to walk the distance every week. If I am not transferred to a prison in Balıkesir, I will never be able to see my children,” she said.

Although Köyden repeatedly appealed to be moved, her requests were denied. “I’m extremely stressed not being able to see my children,” she said. “I lost 15 kilos in prison because I’m devastated.”

Köyden was sentenced to seven years and six months for working in a student dormitory linked to the movement. Her youngest daughter was only nine months old when she was arrested.

Her husband, Yasin Köyden, who was arrested on similar charges, is currently serving a seven-year, six-month sentence in another prison in Cankiri province in central Turkey.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a global civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the December 17-25, 2013 corruption investigations that involved former and current Prime Minister President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and entourage.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and a plot against his government, Erdoğan branded the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He stepped up the crackdown on the movement following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that he accuses Gülen of orchestrating. Gülen and the movement strongly deny any involvement in the failed putsch or any terrorist activity.

The purge damaged the unity of many families and left children in the care of relatives. Such separations have had a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of children. In cases where grandparents are responsible for the care of the child, they cannot meet all the needs, especially in terms of education.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on November 22.

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