Turkish Twitter users conducted a hashtag campaign yesterday calling on authorities to release Sabriye Dağdeviren, the mother of 11-year-old leukemia patient Hakan, who is battling the cancer alone in a hospital.
Hakan was diagnosed with advanced stage leukemia in January. According to his doctors the cancer metastasized to his liver, abdomen, neck and armpits. He is expected to stay in the hospital for almost a year.
Both of his parents were arrested in 2018 for alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.
The hashtag #DirenBeHakan (Be strong, Hakan) was shared widely by Turkish social media users appealing to the Turkish government to postpone the execution of the jail sentence of Hakan’s mother.
Hakan’s mother was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison and his father, Gökhan Dağdeviren, to 19 years. Both are serving their time in Eskişehir Prison, while Hakan and his sister Halenur, are under the care of their grandparents.
In a letter to Elif Çakır of the Karar daily, his mother Sabriye said Hakan is at times cared for by their neighbors during his treatment at the hospital because his grandmother also needs to tend to her 90-year-old mother,
“How painful it is for a mother to know that her son is cared by someone other than his family during chemotherapy,” Sabriye Dağdeviren said in her letter. “I can’t do anything other than wait to hear from my son once a week.”
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 a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Turkey’s post-coup purge has taken a huge toll on human life, making no exceptions for children. Several children such as Ahmet Burhan Ataç, Mehmet Fatih Dedeoğlu, Selman Çalışkan, Eymen Küçükaydoğan, Ali Ihsan Başer and Furkan Dizdar were diagnosed with cancer after their fathers were arrested. Some of these children were unable to cling to life and succumbed to their illnesses. According to the doctors, their fragile bodies were not able to process the sorrow and affliction caused by the persecution of their fathers.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 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 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.