11-year-old girl with Down syndrome deteriorates after arrest of her mother on Gülen links

Ayşe Asude Gök, an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome, stopped interacting with her caregivers after her mother was arrested to serve a sentence for conviction of links to the Gülen movement, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Until her arrest Gök’s mother, Fatma Gök, was her daughter’s primary caregiver. The young girl also suffers from chronic heart disease, and doctors give her a year-and-a-half to live.

Gök stopped talking and became aggressive. Although previously she could communicate her basic needs, Gök has even stopped telling her caregivers that she needs to go to the toilet.

Gök’s aunt said her niece had had a relatively normal life thanks to her mother’s round-the-clock care. “I can’t believe they would separate this child from her mother. My sister was the only person who could really take care of her,” she said.

Fatma Gök has two more children. She was arrested two months ago after the Supreme Court of Appeals approved a six-year, three-month prison sentence. Fatma Gök was sent to a prison in western Turkey’s Edirne province.

She has appealed to be transferred to a prison closer to home in southern Mersin province.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, the AKP government designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. They intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that they accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The Turkish government accepted such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institution linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines as benchmarks for identifying and arresting tens of thousands alleged members of the movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The purge has damaged the unity of many families and left children to the care of relatives. Such separations have had a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of children. In cases where grandparents are responsible of the child’s care, they cannot meet every need, especially in education.

According to a statement by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as of November 15, 2021 a total of 319,587 people had been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.

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