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Teacher who died in jail reported being denied crucial treatment in letter shortly before death

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Halime Gülsu, a 34-year-old unemployed English teacher who died in jail in May because she was allegedly denied the necessary treatment for a chronic disease, wrote a letter to the Prime Ministry several days before her death revealing how she was being denied critical treatment.

Gülsu’s letter, which she wrote to the Prime Ministry Communications Center (BİMER) from Tarsus Prison four days before her death, was made public by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a prominent human rights activist and a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

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 in jail of the medication she took for the disease.

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.

In her letter Gülsu explained in detail what kind of a disease lupus erythematosus is and what complications it could lead to if she did not receive her medication.

She said she was not able to get her medication to bring with her when she was being detained by police officers because they forced to her hurry, and she was not able to ask her family for a long time to bring her the medication.

The teacher also said how the unhygienic conditions in the prison, along with the lack of medication, were taking a toll on her health and that she was suffering from exhaustion and pain in her body.

Gülsu said she wrote numerous petitions to the prison administration to be allowed to go to the prison infirmary but failed to get any response and was only taken to Tarsus State Hospital’s internal medicine department one month after her imprisonment. She wrote that the doctor at the hospital did not perform the tests that would reveal the downward course of her disease but conducted irrelevant ones and wrote a medical report suggesting that she was fit to stay in prison.

The teacher said she was only able get her medication from her brother two months after her imprisonment and that her condition had deteriorated in the meantime.

Gülsu also complained about the attitude of the prison officials and some emergency service workers who underestimated her disease and said she was fine.

“Since my disease does not show any physical symptoms, prison officials think I’m lying and rebuke me. My disease is a serious and a fatal disease,” the teacher wrote while calling for legal action against individuals at Tarsus Women’s Prison, the Mersin Police Department and Tarsus State Hospital who were negligent in caring for her.

Gülsu wrote the letter on April 24, 2018 and died on May 1, 2018.

Gülsu was reportedly held in an overcrowded prison cell, with 21 people including three children staying in the 12-person space.

About Gülsu’s letter, Gergerlioğlu who is a medical doctor by profession, said: “In her letter Gülsu said she could not get her medication for two months. I obtained her autopsy report. The case is just like I guessed as a doctor. There was widespread congestion in all her organs. Such tremendous negligence. I will pursue this death until justice is served.”

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