Plight of former teacher who died from rare blood disorder reveals extent of Turkey’s purge

Mürüvvet Tunç, a former teacher dismissed from her job by a government decree following a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, died of a rare and life-threatening blood disorder known as Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP) on April 23, the Kronos Haber news website reported.

Tunç, 41, was also suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease of the brain and spinal cord. She left behind two children, a 17-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old autistic son.

“She was diagnosed with TTP a week before she passed away,” Tunç’s husband İbrahim said. “The night before she died, the doctors called to say her heart had stopped and was then revived, but later, they informed me of her passing.”

The disease prevents red blood cells from functioning properly; they are expelled through urine and cause clotting.

İbrahim, also a former English teacher dismissed by a government decree, was released three months ago after serving almost five years in prison on charges related to alleged ties to the Gülen movement, a faith-based movement inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the attempted coup on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

İbrahim Tunç further revealed the toll his wife’s illness took on her. “While I was in prison, she single-handedly cared for our autistic son and battled her own illness,” he said. “She waited for my release to hand over the care of our son. She was already suffering from MS, but we lost her to a neurological disease called TTP diagnosed just a week before her passing.”

Tunç was sentenced to 10 years in prison on terrorism charges for serving as an executive of the Volunteer Teachers Association in Düzce, which was one of the hundreds of NGOs shut down by emergency decree-laws in the aftermath of the failed coup. Using encrypted messaging app ByLock and being a subscriber to the Zaman daily, which was also shut down in after the abortive putsch, were also considered evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the faith based Gülen movement since the 2016 coup attempt despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

In a 2023 ruling the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) criticized Turkey’s use as evidence of ByLock as broad and arbitrary, lacking necessary safeguards for a fair trial.

Following the failed coup, 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.

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