Defendants sentenced to total of 66 years in prison in 'child marriage' case involving cult leader's six-year-old child

In the case brought against Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel, one of the leaders of the İsmailağa cult, for arranging a "religious marriage" for his six-year-old daughter, both the mother, the father, and the individual involved in the “marriage” have received a total prison sentence of 66 years.

Duvar English

In the case related to the "religious marriage" of a 6-year-old child in Istanbul, a Turkish court sentenced father Yusuf Ziya Gümüşel to 20 years, mother Fatıma Gümüşel  to 16 years and eight months, and Kadir İstekli, person to whom the child “was married,” to 30 years in prison.

Gümüşel was the founder of Hiranur Foundation affiliated to İsmailağa cult. His daughter filed a criminal complaint about him and said that he “married” her with one of the followers of İsmailağa cult, and that she had been sexually abused throughout her childhood.

In the first hearing held on January 2023, the court decided to impose a publication ban and confidentiality order.

The father and the 29-year-old man to whom the child was married were being held in pre-trial detention, while the mother was being tried without arrest. 

The prosecutor's office demanded punishment for three defendants on the charges of "sexual abuse of a child" and "qualified sexual assault.” 

Religious marriages, which are not recognized by the state, are performed by imams. Some Muslims organize both civil weddings and a religious ceremony which is not illegal. Some Muslim couples in Turkey are binded with only “religious marriage” which leaves women in a vulnerable position because they lack access to the legal rights of civil marriage.

Based at the İsmail Ağa Mosque in Istanbul, İsmailağa cult is affiliated with the Naqshbandi sect. Its members dress radically, usually wearing cloaks and displaying long facial hair. According to several reports, some ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians are engaged in business deals with the movement.