Unjust Detention and Abuse of Minors and Mothers in Istanbul Allegedly Affiliated with the Gülen movement


On the 7th of May 2024, the Turkish police conducted a large-scale operation in Istanbul, where multiple people associated with the Gülen movement, distinctly young female students were targeted. Consequently, 49 persons were detained, including students aged between 13-25, together with their parents. Among the people arrested, a mother with Parkinson’s disease and her daughter were put in prison, facing numerous violations of human rights that will be further explained. The operation was carried out by the Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crime and Anti-Terrorism units of the police in the Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul.

During the operation, multiple homes were forcibly entered and searched, and children were forcefully taken into custody by the Turkish authorities, despite objections from their families and lawyers. This has raised concerns among Turkish society, but also at the international level, about the treatment of minors and the violation of their basic rights during the operation.

Basis for the detention

During the investigations, the minor detainees were reportedly questioned in the absence of their lawyers, and their statements were allegedly manipulated by the police authorities. Some minors were interrogated for 15 hours without having access to legal services, while others were questioned under threat or pressure.

The alleged reasons for this operation were based on activities such as providing, educational support to people by being an education coach, offering financial support, assisting with language learning (English), and organizing educational events. All those activities were intended to support the legal as well as the learning/pedagogic needs for students, but instead, they were labelled as ‘terrorist activities’.

Among the detainees, the female students were questioned about institutions and activities that could be potentially linked to the Gülen Movement. Specific questions included subscriptions to closed publications, use of the ByLock application, and holding accounts at confiscated Bank Asya. Those inquiries as well as how they were made, reflect intrusion into individual freedoms of expression, access to information, and financial freedoms Other students were also questioned about participation in tuition centres, schools, or dormitories associated with the Gülen Movement. Other questions that were put were either interpretative, leading, or based on physical and phone surveillance.

Stories behind the scenes

The stories from the detained people paint a disturbing picture of the unlawful detentions in Istanbul and the heavy impacts on children and their families. From a mother arrested for providing English lessons to her children, to a doctor detained with his daughters, and a mother of seven detained along with her children, these stories showcase the arbitrary and unjust nature of the detentions. People who were suffering from different diseases, for example, a woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, were kept in unsuitable and unacceptable conditions.

Those stories not only underscore the need for greater accountability in the detention process, in order to prevent these violations of human rights and arbitrariness but also bring to the surface the reality behind the bars and the unspoken atrocities that happen to these innocent individuals and their families.


The following recommendations are non-exhaustive and can be used to address human rights violations and prevent such cases:

  • Advocate for legal and humanitarian assistance by encouraging NGOs to provide support for the affected persons. For example, providing counselling services, funding legal defence and monitoring the conditions for the detainees to see if they align with the international standards.
  • Promote awareness and mobilize support for the current issue, as well as encouraging campaigns that support human rights. Additionally, these could also determine the Turkish authorities to adhere to international standards.
  • Call for investigation by demanding the UN organs or different human rights organizations to initiate an independent investigation to the alleged violations of human rights.

Keywords: Gülen, students, Turkish police, detention, Istanbul, minors, arbitrary, human rights


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