Another purge victim dies of cancer

Yusuf Güner Aksay

Yusuf Güner Aksay, a 41-year-old former teacher who was dismissed from his job by a government decree as part of a post-coup purge in Turkey, has died of brain cancer in the southern province of Mersin, the Kronos news website reported on Sunday.

Aksay’s death was announced on social media by opposition deputy and human rights advocate Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

“He was in prison [for a long time], and after his release, he developed cancer,” Gergerlioğlu said.

Reports also said he was sentenced by a court to more than seven-and-a-half years in prison over his alleged links to faith-based Gülen movement.

Aksay was married and the father of two. His wife was also dismissed from her job by a government decree.

Aksay was one of the more than 100,000 civil servants summarily dismissed from their jobs as part of the Turkish government’s response to a failed military coup in July 2016.

The government declared a state of emergency that lasted for two years during which a series of executive decree-laws saw the mass dismissal of civil servants without due process.

In addition to being removed from their jobs and permanently excluded from civil service, the decree-laws also had secondary implications such as being flagged on the social security databases in a way that intimidates potential private sector employers and travel bans preventing victims from seeking employment abroad.

Those dismissed were also deprived of any meaningful legal remedy, and a review commission set up by the government in the face of international pressure was slammed by human rights groups due to its lack of independence from political influence and its opaque review procedures.

The treatment of the purge victims has been described as “civil death.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim 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 intensified the crackdown on the movement following the 2016 abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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