Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Margo Davidson recently visited Turkish refugees in Greece who fled persecution being carried out by the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying in a video that “we heard about mothers being imprisoned right after birth in Turkey. And it’s just really a horrible shame; and that they’re still being tracked by the Turkish government at this point is just really frightening.”
Davidson described her visit to Turkish refugees who have taken shelter in Greece in a video released on Feb. 10. “When my constituents who are from Turkey started telling me about the plight of the Turkish people, it became more and more concerning. And then, when I was asked by a leader of the Turkish community which I’ve known for a number of years now to come and see for myself what was going on, I was more than open to be a witness to what was happening to friends and family members of my constituents here in Upper Darby,” she said.
“The stories of how they were persecuted in their country and the great lengths and the danger that they went through in order to escape, no one would put themselves through that level of danger had they not faced the level of persecution that they were facing in their country.
“I had many moments where I was in tears. I guess the most emotional moment for me was the story of the young girl whose mother was drowning as she came across the river. And her mother was so afraid because she was already afraid of the water. And, the water was coming up around her neck. And she could not swim, and she began to sink, and it was her daughter that reached in the water to pull her up.
“There were seven grown men in that room, and they were all in tears. All of us were in tears. You could see the trauma of that experience even still on the young daughter’s face. I just thought about all the thousands and thousands of people — even as horrible as that story was — that did not have the means to get out.
“And how so many people were cheated by smugglers, trying to get out, having to cross this river, the amazing feats they went to so their newborn children wouldn’t have to go to jail. Because that was what they were facing.
“There were pregnant mothers that crossed the river; there were mothers with very young children and older children. And even with all of that, even with the 600 or so families that did escape. What about the thousands who are not able to escape, that were detained, that were in jail.
“We heard about mothers being imprisoned right after birth in Turkey. And it’s just really a horrible shame; and that they’re still being tracked by the Turkish government at this point is just really frightening.
“Turkey had achieved democracy, but now it’s under a single person’s rule –which is what we call a dictatorship. And so I feel like I have a full understanding what is taking place in Turkey and what the two sides are, what the opposing forces are. It was really an eye-opener; I was not aware of the persecution that was going on in Turkey.
“Subsequently, I’ve read more about what’s been going on in Turkey and how most of the world, the general public is not aware of what’s going on. And how far-reaching it is, because the cleric Gülen had schools in 170 countries and — from published reports — Turkey has been very vigilant in trying to get those people detained and extradited back to Turkey to be imprisoned.
“Turkish people have been very hard workers here in America, have really contributed greatly to American society, have definitely contributed greatly to my district here. So, I believe that elected officials on both sides of the aisle would gain a broader understanding of the world condition – particularly as it relates to Turkey — if they visited firsthand some of these places.”
Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”
(Stockholm Center for Freedom [SCF])