Ayşe Özdoğan, 33, who suffers from a rare form of cancer, has been struggling with complications since the disease spread to her head because she was sent to prison around the time she was scheduled for surgery.
According to the Bold Medya news website, Özdoğan should have been treated with optimum care and priority. She underwent an operation on November 12, 2019 but was arrested shortly after, so she was not able to have the second surgery.
Özdoğan and her husband were detained on April 8, 2019 for alleged links to the Gülen movement. She was released due to her son’s heart condition, but her husband was sent to prison in southern Antalya province.
Özdoğan developed cancer seven months later and despite a medical report, she was arrested on December 12, 2019 and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement 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. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Özdoğan’s arrest sparked outrage and thanks to an online campaign started by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and former deputy from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Özdoğan was released 15 days later.
It was already too late for her second operation, however, as the cancer had spread. Özdoğan’s, tooth, palate, jugal bone and lymph nodes were removed in an emergency operation. Özdoğan lost her ability to see and hear after the operation due to the trauma her facial bones suffered
Despite the surgery, Özdoğan will have to undergo chemotherapy because the tumor in her head could not be removed. “The doctors said it was too risky to remove the tumor so they have to treat it with chemo, but they are not sure how effective the medicine will be without surgery,” she said.
Critics have slammed Turkish authorities for refusing to release critically ill prisoners.
Gergerlioğlu said critically ill political prisoners were not released from prison “until it reaches the point of no return.” He depicted the deaths of seriously ill prisoners in Turkey who are not released in time to receive proper medical treatment as acts of “murder” committed by the state.
According to the Human Rights Association (İHD), there are more than 1,605 sick prisoners in Turkish prisons, approximately 604 of whom are critically ill. Although most of the seriously ill patients have forensic and medical reports deeming them unfit to remain in prison, they are not released. Authorities refuse to release them on the grounds that they pose a potential danger to society. In the first eight months of 2020, five critically ill prisoners passed away because they were not released in time to receive proper medical treatment.
Since April 2020 four seriously ill prisoners over the age of 70 have died in penal institutions; five inmates suffering from cancer died shortly after they were released; and 16 died of chronic illnesses while imprisoned.