Parents imprisoned, 11-year-old diagnosed with leukemia

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Hakan Dağdeviren, an 11-year-old boy whose parents are imprisoned as part of a crackdown in Turkey targeting followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the Bold Medya news website reported on Sunday.

Sabriye and Gökhan Dağdeviren, Hakan’s mother and father, are accused of links to the Gülen movement, a group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The Erdoğan administration accuses Gülen and his followers of masterminding an abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 and labels the movement a terrorist organization. Both the preacher and members of his movement, however, strongly deny involvement in the coup or any terrorist activity.

After the Dağdeviren couple were arrested in 2018, Hakan and his sister Halenur moved into their grandparents’ house. A few weeks ago Hakan started to exhibit symptoms of disease and was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with leukemia. After running tests doctors found the cancer had spread to Hakan’s liver, abdomen, underarms, groin and neck.

Seventy-year-old Ali Dağdeviren, who looks after Hakan and Halenur with his wife, had also been arrested on the same charges as his son and daughter-in-law and was released after he was sentenced to six years, 10 months in prison. His case is pending appeal along with that of his son Gökhan, who was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Sabriye was sentenced to six years, 10 months, and the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld her conviction.

“After Sabriye and Gökhan Dağdeviren were arrested, their grandparents took custody of their children, but their son, Hakan, developed cancer. [The simultaneous] arrest of mothers and fathers is a great injustice,” Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a lawmaker from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted on Monday.

Tanrıkulu, also deputy chair of parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry Committee, had previously stated that the arrest of both parents, which shatters families, is a “method of punishment” systematically imposed by Erdoğan’s AKP government.

Since the coup attempt, followers of the Gülen movement have been subjected to a massive crackdown, with the Turkish government and pro-government media outlets demonizing its members.

According to a statement from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November 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 were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown, tearing apart many families in the process.

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