Amid grief over jailed father, 12-year-old Turkish boy not responding to cancer treatment

Muhammed Eray Özkul, the 12-year-old son of the Zonguldak-based former police officer Ender Özkul who was jailed in the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, is not responding to cancer treatment, according to his mother.

“The illness relapses two times during chemotherapy. The doctor calls me to his room to give me the bad news on both occasions. ‘Your son is not responding to treatment; I have nothing else left to do,’ he says. I went weak at my knees. I don’t remember how I left the room. It was tough one. I am not hopeless at all. I believe that he will survive this disease if his father stands by him. His only cure is morale,” his mother Oya Özkul wrote on Twitter on December 22, 2017

Muhammed Eray’s father worked as a police officer for 15 years until he was suspended on the accusations of having links to the Gülen movement on September 2016 and arrested shortly after over similar grounds. While in jail pending trial, he was completely removed from the job in a government decree in late November, the same year.

Following the dismissal, his family was ordered to move out of the state-supported housing meanwhile they were subject to bullying from the other immediate family members due to their alleged ties to the Gülen movement.

The plight of Özkul family was first revealed only after Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a columnist for T24 online news portal, a physican and human rights defender, who has also been dismissed in the government’s post-coup crackdown, mentioned his chat with Oya Özkul in his column on October 18, 2017.

Gergerlioğlu narrated the development of the disease onto Muhammed Eray’s body as saying: “He has never understood why his father whom he always considers a hero is being treated that way. His school performance drops, he gets more emotional every passing day and he turns in on himself. ‘My father lost his father, so did I,’ he cries grieving his father’s labelling as terrorist. As time goes on, he loses his appetite and his fever occasionally goes up. [His mother] Mrs. Oya frequents the offices of each and every doctor in Zonguldak for 2,5 months but the prescription has never become remedy. She was told at every hospital [in Zonguldak] that her son has nothing serious. Then, she decides to move to İstanbul where her son was diagnosed with lymphoma at a university hospital.”

“Mr Ömer, my son got cancer because of the grief. I know my son very well. He is a very emotional boy. He feels sick at heart for his father. He collapsed,” Oya Özkul told Gergerlioğlu.

Muhammed Eray stopped going to school in March 2017 but his teachers allowed him to graduate from 7th grade to the eighth.

Once Oya Özkul and his two children moved to İstanbul for Muhammed Eray’s treatment, they stopped by the Eyüp District Governorship where they were denied request for help. “Dude, there is no wailing wall here,” mocked an official at the governorship.

Meanwhile, a pro-government Humanitarian Aid Association (İHH) employee told OyaÖzkul  on the phone: “Your husband should have thought about all these when he was supporting FETÖ.”

The Ministry of Family and Social Policies was no relief for the family either.

Gergerlioğlu’s column maintained: “It is hard to describe the father’s psychology when he was told about the disease. Twisted in despair, he has lost 21 kilograms since he first heard about it. He has haircut to go bald when his son visits him in prison. He successively requested from the court: ‘Please release me pending trial. I am not about escaping my country for which I served for years. My wife and children need me so much.’ But, the requests always remain unanswered. He appeared before the court for the first time last Friday. At the at the of the hearing where even family members are prevented from attending, the trial was adjourned until the second hearing, scheduled for January.

“Muhammed Eray has been receiving chemotherapy treatment for more than 5 months now.

“On Oct 17, the family was told that his body is not responding to the treatment. Doctors are not hopeful for marrow transplant either. …Yesterday, Mrs. Oya called me to say in tears: ‘My son is going away, Mr. Ömer. He is slipping down from my hands. ” (

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