Special needs school forces disabled girl to leave due to father’s links to Gülen movement

A young girl with major disabilities has been forced to leave a public special needs school because her father used to work for an institution that was shut down by a government decree for its affiliation with the Gülen movement, Bold Medya reported.

Nurefşan Ketenci, 16, was born with Cri-du-chat syndrome, also known as 5p minus syndrome. She is totally disabled and according to the doctors her heart function is similar to that of a 94-year-old. Ketenci’s lungs only partially function, and she lives connected to an oxygen tube.

Cri-du-chat syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes high-pitched cries in infants. The syndrome gets its name from this cry, which sounds like a cat. It also causes intellectual disabilities, delayed development, small head size, weak muscles and heart defects.

Ketenci’s father was working in an institution that was shut down by an executive decree after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Since the teenager’s school was not allowed to directly expel any of its students, according to Ketenci’s mother Senanur Ketenci, they were pressured into withdrawing her from the school by the administration.

“They forced us to sign a petition asking them to cancel our daughter’s registration,” Senanur Ketenci said. “They told us they did not want our daughter in their school any longer.”

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on followers of the Gülen movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Nov. 26, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement. Fethullah Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive coup or any terrorist activity.

A total of 1,058 educational institutions and 1,769 NGOs were shut down as part of the crackdown by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

The Ketenci family eventually had no choice but to relocate to a safer country and are currently refugees in Germany. Senanur Ketenci said German authorities supported them in every step of taking care of their daughter and her healthcare.

Following the purge, many dissidents sought freedom from oppression outside of Turkey. For instance, in 2019 Turks were third in terms of number of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians and Iraqis according to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

“On the basis of the information available, we assume that the high number of asylum applications by Turkish citizens is also due to the political situation in Turkey,” the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) told EURACTIV Germany.

According to BAMF figures for 2019, about a quarter of all Turkish asylum seekers were granted refugee protection because they were recognized as fugitives due to persecution, which is more often the case than for refugees coming from other countries.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), said that about 2,800 Turks had applied for asylum in Switzerland between August 2016 and September 2019, compared with about 1,200 applications during the previous three-year-period.

Turkey ranked second on the list of countries of origin of all asylum seekers in Switzerland. “The increase in Turkish asylum-seekers is a consequence of domestic developments in Turkey,” said SEM spokesman Lukas Rieder.

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