Turkish asylum seeker in Germany succumbs to cancer

A former biology teacher who fled to Germany to escape political oppression in Turkey died from cancer last week in Cologne, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Lütfiye Banu Kaya, 49, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs and liver, but Kaya was undergoing treatment and doing well. After a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, Kaya’s treatment was cut short because her doctor was fired by a government decree.

Kaya was also dismissed from her job and detained twice for alleged links to the Gülen movement. She was released both times due to her health problems; however, Kaya and her husband decided to flee Turkey with their three children for a safer life outside the country.

The mother of three continued treatment in Germany but succumbed to the disease in a hospital in Cologne.

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 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Kaya’s father said he regretted not seeing his daughter one last time. Identified only by the initials Z.Ö., he said he could not go to his daughter’s funeral because of a travel ban. “I am also being investigated for links to the movement, and I’m under a travel ban,” he said. “The investigations into me caused tremendous pain for my daughter. I believe the stress caused the disease to spread further.”

Z.Ö. said it was unbelievable that his daughter had been accused of terrorism since teaching had been her passion and she never took a day off, even when she was sick.

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 public 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.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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