Turkey’s massive purge forces even the most fragile to leave

The story of a Turkish asylum seeker in Greece who had to leave Turkey despite suffering from esophageal cancer shows the lengths to which people go to flee the Erdogan’s government’s massive purge and persecution.

According to a report by Bold Medya, Uğur Mun, 48, was arrested in July 2016 for affiliation with the Gülen movement and released one year later pending appeal. His cancer treatment was not conducted effectively in prison, where he could not even see the doctor for a year. He developed an embolism and suffered three strokes due to the lack of care.

Mun was sentenced to six years, three months in prison. He left Turkey because he did not want to suffer the same fate as former police officer Mustafa Kabakçıoğlu, who died alone in a filthy quarantine cell.

Kabakçıoğlu suffered from multiple health problems including diabetes and asthma and was taken to a quarantine cell because he was coughing excessively. A week later he died. The conditions surrounding his death are still unclear.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Turkish 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 locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

“I was detained in Greece and stayed in a detention center for 54 days during which I contracted COVID-19. It was an awful period, and I was hospitalized,” Mun said. “I nearly died.”

Mun was discharged from the hospital 10 days ago; however, the cancer medicine he brought from Turkey is nearly finished. Mun said he needed immediate help to obtain more medication.

“Right now, I don’t know how to seek treatment for cancer in Greece. Even if I do find a doctor, I don’t have the means to buy the necessary medication,” he said. “I haven’t been able to earn any money since my arrest.”

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Following the crackdown, many dissidents sought freedom from oppression outside of Turkey. In 2019 Turkish asylum seekers were the third largest group after Syrians and Iraqis in Germany according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

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.

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 since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the movement.

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