Another purge victim succumbs to cancer

Ömer Günerigök in the earlier stages of cancer

Ömer Günerigök, a teacher who was purged from his job and prosecuted by the authorities in Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, died of skin cancer on June 8.

He was 31 years old.

Günerigök was a bright teacher who started his career at a public school in his hometown of Bingöl after coming in 12th out of 300 thousands applicants in the Public Service Entrance Examination (KPSS), a centralized test for joining public service. In the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, he was first dismissed from his job, then detained for a week on terrorism-related charges on the grounds that he was a member of the faith-based Gülen movement, a dissident group that has long been targeted by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

He was reinstated to his job three months later but was this time transferred as punishment to another school. It took longer to get himself extricated from the judicial proceedings. He was finally acquitted of all charges last summer.

Like many other fellow purge victims who shared a similar fate, all these tribulations proved to be too much for Günerigök as evidenced by his having been diagnosed with skin cancer in February of this year.

Günerigök’s last wish was to be able to see his brother one last time. His brother Taner is a former police officer who was purged from his job and sentenced to 10 years, nine months’ imprisonment as part of investigations into the Gülen movement. As in numerous other cases, judicial authorities refused to allow Taner to visit his dying brother because in Turkey, rights and freedoms accorded to other citizens and inmates are often withheld from those who have alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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