Social media campaign urges release of inmate suffering from debilitating neurological disorder

Yazgül Dural

Social media users on Wednesday called on Turkish authorities to release Yazgül Dural, an inmate suffering from a neurological disorder whose health has deteriorated due to alleged negligence by the prison administration.

Diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain, while in prison, Dural suffers from frequent dizziness, vomiting and loss of balance, making it difficult for her to care for herself.

A medical report from Bakırçay University Çiğli Teaching and Research Hospital dated February 27, 2023 stated that Dural’s condition made her unfit to remain in prison.

Dural was sentenced along with her husband to over six years in November 2022 on allegations of association with the faith-based Gülen movement based on her use of the ByLock messaging app.

ByLock, once widely available online, has been considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, despite the lack of any evidence that ByLock messages were related to the abortive putsch.

Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has in several cases made clear that use of the ByLock messaging app does not constitute a criminal offense, following the coup attempt the Turkish government continued to detain and prosecute alleged followers of the movement over their use of ByLock.

Dural, originally from Kyrgyzstan, moved to Turkey in 2007 for studying at the national police academy, where she met and married her husband Abdi Dural.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the 2013 corruption investigations, 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 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.

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