Parents of critically ill teen detained in nationwide police operation targeting Gülen movement

Azra Ağır

The parents of a critically ill young woman were detained in a nationwide police raid on Tuesday morning for alleged links to the Gülen movement, the TR724 news website reported.

The parents of 17-year-old Azra Ağır, who suffers from Joubert Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes abnormal brain development, were detained in two different provinces, Gaziantep and Kırşehir. The news was announced by Ağır on social media, who called for prayers from her followers.

The couple was detained as part of a larger police operation carried out across the country. A total of 611 people were detained in raids conducted in 77 provinces.

In an announcement on social media, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said the operation targeted the movement’s financial network.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim 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 an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

According to media reports, Ağır suffers from renal failure and has needed dialysis for the last four years. She is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Furthermore, her disease causes neuro-motor impairment, and she needs round-the-clock care from her mother. 

Following the coup attempt, 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 civil servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 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.

The post-coup purge has resulted in the imprisonment of many parents with chronically sick children. Although human rights activists have repeatedly called on authorities for the postponement of their sentences so they can take care of their children, these calls have often fallen on deaf ears.

A new law was enacted in April allowing for the postponement of sentences for women whose children are suffering from illness. According to the law, for an appeal to be made, the mother’s sentence needs to have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

However, even in cases where their sentence was upheld, women have not been successful in their appeals.

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