Dec 23 2017

Teacher who said, “Don’t let children die” will be sent to jail with her newborn

Ayşe Çelik, a school teacher from southeast Turkey, received legal notice of her one year three months jail sentence for calling for peace on TV.

If her appeal fails, she will be sent to prison in 10 days with her 2-month-old baby daughter, Turkish independent news website Bianet reported.

Çelik has called in a popular Saturday night TV show hosted by comedian Beyazıt Öztürk on Jan. 6, 2016 and said the clashes between Kurdish insurgent groups and the Turkish security forces are not represented correctly on Turkish media:

Are you aware of what is going on in the country’s east and southeast? Unborn babies and mothers are being killed. As artists, as human beings, you shouldn’t stay silent but draw the line in some way. There are despicable people who get happy when children die. I cannot say anything more than, ‘shame on them!’

I am a teacher, and I would like to call on those teachers who left their students behind. How are they going to return here one day, and look at those innocent good-hearted children in the eye? I am speechless, really.

What is happening here is misrepresented on television. I cannot really say more, please don’t stay silent. Please show more sensitivity as human beings. See us, hear us and give us a hand. What a pity! Don’t let people die. Don’t let children die. Don’t let mothers cry.

This is all I can say. I want to say more, but my emotions are mounting, my voice is shaking. Sounds of bombs, gunfire... People grapple with hunger and thirst here, especially babies and children. Please do more, and don’t stay silent, please.

After Çelik’s words, host Öztürk thanked her and asked the audience to give the teacher an applause.

Öztürk said “We are trying to do everything we can, but your words will be a lesson for us. We share your call for peace, and we hope for a solution to all this soon. These issues should be talked about, wherever the time or place.”

After the live broadcast of the show, a criminal investigation was launched by the public prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakır, the eastern majority-Kurdish province where Çelik had worked.

38 intellectuals from all around Turkey reported themselves to the prosecutor in protest, admitting they said the same words with Çelik.

At the hearing on April 2017, Çelik was sentenced to 15 months in jail for “making propaganda of a terrorist organisation.”

Çelik's lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman, was later quoted by leftist Turkish newspaper Evrensel as saying the law allows postponing of jail sentences until a mother's baby is 6 months old, and they applied to the court on that grounds.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu said there are about 700 children who are staying in Turkish prisons with their mothers.

“A mother who said ‘Don't let children die’ will go to prison with her child. This is very sad for Turkey.”