Beyza Demir, a Turkish woman who has been held in pre-trial detention over a year over alleged links to Turkey’s Gülen group, was sent back to prison immediately after giving birth on March 28.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a Turkish human rights activist, medical doctor and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy, said during a press conference March 28: “Pregnant prisoner Beyza Demir just gave birth and still in prison. She is still in prison.This is unbelievable. This doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Hundreds of pregnant women are in prisons in Turkey.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 20, 2018 said 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, calling on Turkey to end the practice of detaining pregnant and postpartum women.

In a 28-page report issued by the OHCHR noted the following points concerning the detention, arrest and torture of pregnant women and children in Turkey in 2017: “OHCHR estimates that approximately 600 women with young children were being held in detention in Turkey as of December 2017, including about 100 women who were pregnant or had just given birth.

“OHCHR documented at least 50 cases of women who had given birth just prior to or just after being detained or arrested. OHCHR received a report concerning a woman who was sexually assaulted by a police officer during arrest. Moreover, NGOs brought to the attention of OHCHR at least six cases of women who were detained while they were visiting their spouses in prison. They were either detained together with their children or violently separated from them.”

Since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 more than more than 10,000 women accompanied by at least 705 infants have been jailed over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The women are accused of providing scholarships, arranging sales, depositing money in private lender Bank Asya, sending their children to schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, subscribing to the Zaman or Bugün newspapers or using the ByLock smart phone messaging application.

Women who go to hospitals seeking birth control or to give birth are clear targets for police officers. However, according to the Turkish Penal Code’s Article 5275, “the sentence of imprisonment is postponed for women who are pregnant or who are within six months of delivery.” Experts say that according to the law, the arrest of pregnant women and those who have infants younger than six months of age is not possible at all. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) also takes born or unborn children under protection.