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Gov’t denies assistance to autistic teen due to father’s alleged links to Gülen movement

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A district governor’s office in Hatay province has been refusing to provide assistance to the family of Rüveyda Tekgöz, a 16-year-old autistic girl because her father was fired from his job due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Bold Medya news website.

According to a report by a state hospital, Tekgöz is considered 70 percent disabled and is entitled to TL 800 ($80) in government assistance provided to the families of disabled individuals. Yet, the family has been denied assistance since August 2019.

Rüveyda’s father Mehmet Ali Tekgöz, a teacher, was dismissed from his job by an emergency decree-law on September 1, 2016 due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement. He was later sentenced to six years, three months’ imprisonment for membership in a terrorist organization. An appeals court overturned his conviction and he was released in January 2018, after spending 16 months in prison. His retrial will start in December.

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.

Mehmet Ali Tekgöz is one of tens of thousands of former public servants who were removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws following the coup attempt.

Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also banned from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. Their families also faced discrimination.

Rüveyda’s family brought the case to the ombudsman’s office, which investigates claims of rights violations by public institutions and officials. Human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu asked the office about the case but was told they had not received an application concerning it.

In a tweet on Wednesday, however, Gergerlioğlu shared a copy of the ombudsman’s office’s decision about the case, which stated that the application was denied.

There have been other cases where disabled children were denied public benefits. Financial assistance paid by the Turkish government to the family of Nurbanu Aydın, a “spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy” patient, was cut off after her father, Muammer Aydın, was arrested on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Nurefşan Ketenci, who suffers from Cri-du-chat syndrome, also known as 5p minus syndrome, was forced to leave a public special needs school because her father used to work for an institution that was shut down by a government decree for its affiliation with the Gülen movement . She is totally disabled and according to the doctors her heart function is similar to that of a 94-year-old.

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