Turkish government denies professor opportunity to find life-saving cancer treatment abroad

Turkish authorities have refused to allow psychiatry Professor Haluk Savas, who was sacked from his job following the 2016 coup attempt, to seek cancer treatment abroad, according to a news report by BBC Turkish on Tuesday.

Savas was dismissed from his job at the Gaziantep University (GAUN) during the state-of-emergency decree issued by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) as part of the wide-spread purge in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The professor was detained in September 2016 and held under house arrest on terror-related accusations for months before he was cleared of the alleged charges and released.

He was diagnosed with cancer while under house arrest and decided to undertake new immunotherapy treatments in Asia or the US after his cancer relapsed twice.

Savas explained on Twitter that he went to the Adana Governor’s Office and requested a new passport after his name was cleared and the travel ban lifted.

“The official looked at information on a computer and told me that they cannot reissue a passport because my passport had been canceled by a legal decree,’’ the professor said.

Following the tweets describing his situation, Savas received huge support on social media.

Several political figures, journalists, artists, human rights activists, and other purged public officials experiencing the same situation were among those who posted nearly 22,000 tweets using the hashtag #HalukSavasaPasaport (Passport for Haluk Savas).

Selin Sayek Boke, an MP for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), supported the hashtag, saying, “Right to life and access to health care are among the most basic human rights.”

Referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP, Ahmet Faruk Unsal, a former AKP MP and current MP for the Islamist opposition Felicity Party (SP), said: “The attitude of the ruling authority, which disregards court rulings and arbitrarily prevents people from exercising their most fundamental human rights and freedom, is unacceptable.”

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Siirt MP Meral Danis Bestas also voiced support for Professor Savas on Twitter.

“We always say the most fundamental difference between governments and gangs is a commitment to the law. [Legally], there’s nothing preventing Haluk Savas from obtaining a passport,” she argued in a tweet.

After thousands of posts on Twitter, the Adana Governor’s Office invited Savas to take all the necessary medical documents to them so they could review the case, BBC Turkish reported.

Although all the required documents have been submitted to the authorities and he was told that the governor would follow up on the case, Savas said on Twitter that he doubts he will receive a positive outcome.

Savas further explained that CHP Izmir deputy, Serpil Kemalbay, who contacted Turkey’s General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs about the issue, also said the outcome will most likely be negative.

According to BBC Turkish, Savas’ petition about his situation was initially sent to the Gaziantep Governor’s Office from the Adana Governor’s Office. It was then sent to the Ministry of Interior to be evaluated.

Savas says that the process continues with uncertainty as all the officers and authorities he was in contact with still keep telling him, “We’ll get back to you.”

More than 7,500 academics were dismissed from their jobs due to accusations of being members of the faith-based Gulen movement by means of the AKP government decrees in the aftermath of the attempted coup in 2016.

Erdogan blamed the Gulen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, which is labeled a terror organization by the Turkish government, for orchestrating the failed coup.

Calling the coup attempt “a gift from God,” Erdogan and the governing AKP have launched a wide-spread purge targeting real and alleged members of the movement within state institutions.

The movement and its leader, Gulen, strongly denied the accusation and called for an international investigation into the incident.

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