Former court clerk who perished while fleeing Turkey’s crackdown laid to rest on Greek island

Nurdan Şenocak Gündüz, 34, a former court clerk who died with her husband while trying to flee to Greece, was laid to rest on the Greek island of Kos on Saturday although none of her family members could attend the funeral due to bureaucratic obstacles, Turkish media reported.

Speaking to the Kronos news website, Gündüz’s brother, Bilal Şenocak, said consenting to his sister being buried on Kos was a difficult decision for the family. “Thankfully the Muslim community on Kos arranged the funeral,” he said. “We could not go to Kos to identify my sister’s remains and bring her body back to Turkey. We were unable to obtain a visa, and neither the Turkish nor the Greek consulates helped us despite calls from opposition politicians and prominent public figures.”

Gündüz and her husband died on December 3 after a speedboat carrying them overturned in the Aegean Sea.

Şenocak said they heard about his sister’s death on social media and confirmed the news through friends in Athens. Their attempts to obtain a visa failed, and the family had to consent to burying Gündüz in Greece since it had been over a month since her death.

“We found out that if the body was in the morgue for more than a month, they would have to send it back to Turkey after removing the internal organs,” said Şenocak. “We did not want to subject my sister’s body to more suffering so we consented for her to be buried where she was.”

Gündüz and her husband, a former public prosecutor, were among the thousands of civil servants who were expelled from public service in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in the country in July 2016.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

According to Şenocak, his sister and brother-in-law were successful people but could not find a job after their dismissal. Nobody wanted to give them a job and they felt increasingly marginalized from society.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of people have fled Turkey since the coup attempt due to the massive witch-hunt carried out by the Turkish government against alleged members of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Many have tried to illegally flee Turkey as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group 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 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.

Dismissed civil servants lost 70 percent of their average monthly income, a circumstance that reduced them to dire financial straits. The biggest problem they have been facing is economic hardship (97.9 percent) followed by psychological problems (88.6 percent), loss of social prestige and social exclusion (83.7 percent), disintegration of social circles (83.1 percent), unemployment/lack of employment (80.4 percent) and lack of social security (73.2 percent), respectively.

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