Halime Gülsu, a 34-year-old unemployed English teacher, died in jail on Saturday because she was denied the necessary treatment for a chronic disease she has been suffering from since childhood, according to witnesses and the preliminary autopsy report.
Gülsu, who was arrested on Feb. 20, 2018 along with dozens of other women for allegedly helping the families of people who were jailed over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, died in prison in Mersin province. She was suffering from lupus erythematosus and was reportedly deprived of the medication she took for this disease while in jail.
The Turkish government, which accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, has been carrying out a widespread crackdown on the movement’s followers.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a renowned human rights activist and a doctor by profession, on Monday dedicated his column on the artigercek.com news website to Gülsu’s ordeal.
Gergerlioğlu, who spoke to Gülsu’s brothers, said she was kept in police detention for 15 days and then arrested and sent to Mersin Prison. During the time she was in police custody, according to what Gülsu’s brothers told Gergerlioğlu, the brothers were not allowed to see their sister, and although they brought medication to be given to her immediately, she never received it. The brothers told Gergerlioğlu that one of Halime Gülsu’s cellmates, who was later released, told them their sister was not given her medication while in detention.
The brothers also said they were informed later that Halime Gülsu appeared in court and was sent to Tarsus Prison and that they did not know whether she was subjected to any maltreatment or torture during the process.
One of Gülsu’s brothers, Metin, said he brought Gülsu’s medical reports along with her medication while she was in detention but later learned that the reports went missing.
“The patient was referred to a hospital in Tarsus due to the reports that went missing and the ambiguity over her drugs. Following an examination there, the doctors claimed that the disease from which she had been suffering from years simply does not exist. This is an unbelievable situation,” wrote Gergerlioğlu, adding that for someone suffering from lupus erythematosus, it is very important to live in a healthy environment in addition to taking medication regularly.
According to Gergerlioğlu, in people suffering from lupus erythematosus, the disease doesn’t affect one part of the body but rather all the internal organs because it is systemic, and the lives of these people are filled with hardship because the medication they take affects their immune system, and their condition is likely to deteriorate even due to a small health problem.
Gülsu was reportedly jailed in an overcrowded prison cell, with 21 people including three children staying in the 12-person cell.
Gülsu was last seen by her brother Metin on April 25, when she was brought back from an examination at Mersin Şehir Hospital. The brother told Gergerlioğlu that Gülsu looked exhausted and told her brother she was feeling very unwell.
Shortly after her brother left, Gülsu got worse, her breathing stopped and she was taken to the prison infirmary.
“Gülsu was showing all the signs of imminent death, but the necessary action was not taken. She had to be taken to an intensive care unit. As is mentioned in her preliminary autopsy report, she had signs of heart and kidney failure. As a doctor, I can say the clinical situation of Gülsu and my examination of her preliminary autopsy report show a very neglected patient,” wrote Gergerlioğlu.
The renowned activist said if the necessary medical action had been taken at an intensive care unit, it would have saved her life, but instead Gülsu was taken back to prison from the infirmary, where she died.
Gergerlioğlu likens the case of Gülsu to that of Gökhan Açıkkollu, a teacher who died due to torture while in pretrial detention in the aftermath of the failed coup.
The torture, ill-treatment, abusive, inhuman and degrading treatment of people who are deprived of their liberties in Turkey’s detention centers and prisons have become the norm rather than the exception under increased nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry in the country in the wake of the coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since the putsch while around 60,000 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.