11-year-old son of jailed purge victims diagnosed with cancer

Eleven-year-old Hakan Dağdeviren, whose parents were arrested on politically motivated terrorism charges, was diagnosed with leukemia last week, leading to calls from human rights activists for the release of his parents, Bold Medya reported.

The young boy was fatigued and exhibiting rashes a couple of weeks ago and was taken to the hospital. He was diagnosed with leukemia and was informed that cancer had metastasized to his liver, abdomen, neck, and armpits. According to his grandparents, Hakan’s morale was very low and he had been suffering from psychological problems since his parents’ arrest.

Hakan’s parents, Sabriye and Gökhan Dağdeviren, were arrested two years ago for alleged links to the Gülen movement. His mother, Sabriye Dağdeviren, was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison and his father, Gökhan Dağdeviren, was sentenced to 19 years. Both are serving time in Eskisehir Prison, while Hakan and his sister Halenur, are being taken care of by their grandparents.

Grandfather Ali Dağdeviren, 70, was also arrested on similar charges despite suffering from multiple health conditions. He was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison and was released pending trial. However, he will be rearrested if the Supreme Court of Appeals upholds his sentence.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges, and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Grandmother Meral Dağdeviren said the ordeals had been traumatic for the whole family. “My grandson needs his parents, especially his mother. He already suffered enough during their arrest, and he needs to get through this illness with the help of his parents,” she said.

Meral Dağdeviren added that they had not been able to tell the parents about their son’s diagnosis. “We could not bring ourselves to tell them, how can we? We could only tell them that he was sick, but not the final diagnosis,” she said.

Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement. Fethullah Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive coup or any terrorist activity.

Turkey’s post-coup purge has taken a huge toll on human life, making no exceptions for children. Several children such as Ahmet Burhan Ataç, Mehmet Fatih Dedeoğlu, Selman Çalışkan, Eymen Küçükaydoğan, Ali Ihsan Başer, and Furkan Dizdar were diagnosed with cancer after their fathers were arrested. Some of these children were unable to cling to life and succumbed to their illnesses. According to the doctors, their fragile bodies were not able to process the sorrow and affliction caused by the persecution of their fathers.

According to a regulation on the execution of sentences, the sentences of prisoners whose first-degree relatives are seriously ill may be postponed for one year. But the authorities refuse to apply this regulation when it comes to Gülen followers.

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