Disabled girl forced to leave special needs school due to father’s links to Gülen movement dies

Nurefşan Ketenci, 16, a young girl with major disabilities who had been forced to leave a public special needs school in Turkey because her father used to work for an institution that was shut down by a government decree for its affiliation with the Gülen movement, passed away in Germany, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Ketenci was born with Cri-du-chat syndrome, also known as 5p minus syndrome. She was totally disabled and according to the doctors her heart function was similar to that of a 94-year-old. Ketenci’s lungs only partially functioned, and she lived connected to oxygen.

Ketenci’s father was working in an institution that was shut down by an executive decree after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Since the teenager’s school was not allowed to directly expel any of its students, according to Ketenci’s mother Senanur Ketenci, they were pressured into withdrawing her from the school by the administration.

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 intensified the crackdown on the movement following the 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.

The Ketenci family eventually had no choice but to relocate to a safer country and were living as refugees in Germany. Senanur Ketenci said German authorities supported them in every step of taking care of their daughter and her healthcare. They were provided a hospital bed and a special wheelchair. Lifts were installed at the entrance of their house and the bathroom. A private caretaker was assigned to Nurefşan and she continued going to school.

Cri-du-chat syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes high-pitched cries in infants. The syndrome gets its name from this cry, which sounds like a cat. It also causes intellectual disabilities, delayed development, small head size, weak muscles and heart defects.

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