İzmir hospital says paralyzed inmate who will have heart surgery fit to remain in prison

Şerife Sulukan, 45, a paralyzed woman serving time on conviction of affiliation with the Gülen movement who has been admitted to a hospital for major surgery, was issued a medical report saying she could return to prison immediately after her discharge from the hospital, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Sulukan is scheduled for heart surgery on Friday. Although the report made clear that Sulukan’s disability had reached a stage where she could no longer walk without assistance and could not take care of herself on her own, it concluded that she would be able to return to prison after the operation.

Sulukan’s family has repeatedly expressed concern over prison conditions and have said her health has deteriorated considerably during her incarceration.

In June 2022 Sulukan suffered an epileptic seizure in prison and wrote a letter to Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu to ask for help. Sulukan said she did not have access to proper medical care or good nutrition in prison, which delayed her treatment.

According to her family, Sulukan had never experienced a seizure before. She was supposed to be taking supplements to support her treatment but she currently cannot in prison. They believe this is why Sulukan experienced a seizure.

Various human rights platforms and people expressed their solidarity with Sulukan on social media.

“Şerife Sulukan, who is paralyzed, unable to walk without support, unable to meet her personal needs alone and who also has heart disease, got a hospital report that says she ‘can stay in prison.’ It’s unbelievable!” said one social media user.

“Şerife Sulukan, a teacher who is almost entirely disabled, was hospitalized for heart surgery, but the hospital decided she was fit to remain prison despite her severe health problems. They are almost leaving her to die,” said Kadının Sesi (Voice of Women), a German-based platform for women’s rights.

Sulukan, a former teacher who has been suffering from paralysis for 22 months, was sent to prison in early May after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a six year, three month prison sentence due to her affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the 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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.

There have even been cases when women arrested on Gülen links died in jail after they were denied critical medication by the prison authorities or when women were sent to jail immediately after delivery with their newborns, contrary to the law.

Turkey’s women rights organizations and opposition parties are criticized for turning a blind eye to the plight of these women and not raising their voices against their imprisonment on what many say are politically motivated charges.

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