Ahmet Burhan Atac: The Story of the Child Who Got Killed Collectively*

From September 24, 2018, when he was diagnosed with cancer until May 7, 2020, when he died, the story of two years of resistance, suffering, and persecution.

Ahmed Burhan Atac, the children of Zekiye-Harun Reha Ataç, was diagnosed with bone cancer on September 24, 2018. When he was diagnosed, his father was under arrest. Ahmet’s 2-year struggle for his life reflects Turkey’s recent grim years.

On February 20, 2018, while Ahmet was playing games with his friends in the nursery school. His mother, Zekiye Atac, his father Harun Reha Atac, and his little sister were taken to the police station. Ahmet was only six years old. Mrs. Atac, who was laid off during the state of emergency, was detained for 14 days. She was released after being detained for another 2.5 months. Mr. Atac was banned from teaching with a statutory decree. After being arrested for 13 days, he was arrested on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization. One of the reason was, he was a director in a private dormitory which was affiliated with the Gulen movement. The period Ahmet has been without his parents for three months coincides with the onset of his cancer.


Harun Reha Atac, who was on trial at the Adana 2nd High Criminal Court, was sentenced to 9 years and nine months in prison. Two months after his son was diagnosed with cancer. On November 30, 2018, according to the medical reports, Ahmet was diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy, were submitted to the 2nd High Criminal Court of Adana, and a legal request was made regarding Mr. Atac’s release pending trial until the Supreme Court decision. Adana 2nd High Criminal Court President ruled on Harun Reha Atac’s detention by saying, “I have no remission whatsoever for you.”

Ahmet was taken to treatment at Cukurova University Hospital. When he did not recover with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he had an operation in July 2019, and the tumor in his shoulder blade was cleaned. However, during controls performed in September 2019, it was determined that cancer spread to his lung.

Mother Zekiye Atac said, “We had an interim evaluation this week. A tumor of 4 cm. in size was detected in the lung. Doctors were also shocked to see such growth and spread in such a short time. I am helpless. My son is dying before my eyes. ” Following the mother’s comments and Ahmet’s emotional video in which he wished his father was by his side, the story of Ahmet attracted attention on social media.


A campaign was launched on social media for Ahmet’s father to be tried without arrest and to be with his son during the treatment process.

Mother Zekiye Atac said, “We had a phone call in the morning with his father in prison, but Ahmet did not want to talk to his father on the phone. Because he couldn’t stand it, but then he asked me, “What did my father say?”. Please, Lord, let him come on his own, not on the phone.” Thousands of social media users showed support with hashtags like “Let Him Beat Cancer With His Father,” and Ahmet’s story got recognized on a national level.


While the sharp criticism over the court order against Mr. Atac’s release continued, Mrs. Zekiye Atac was detained for the second time on October 15, 2019. Ahmet was left without a father and a mother. Zekiye Atac was accused of being a ‘member of the terrorist organization’ because she accepted the donations for the treatment of his son, said Mrs. Atac’s relatives. Zekiye Atac was released on bail the next day, after public outrage regarding her detention.


As Ahmet’s disease progressed, his doctors directed the family to Germany, saying that he could be treated at the Immuno-Oncology Center in Cologne, Germany. Upon contacting the clinic, it was stated that Ahmet could be processed, provided that he is transferred promptly. The family did not have the economic power to cover the expenses. Only after it was announced that a business person would cover the costs of the first stage of the treatment, Ahmet flew to Germany on January 20, 2020. Mrs. Atac could not accompany his son because of her overseas travel ban. Gülsüm Atac, Ahmet’s 70-year-old grandmother, accompanied him.



Human Rights Defender Arlet Natali Avazyan, who closely followed Ahmet’s case, stepped in and started a charity campaign on Twitter on January 24, 2020, for treatment expenses. The required 50 thousand euros was raised within 24 hours.



Mother Atac stated that raising the money necessary for the treatment under 24 hours was very moving. She added: “I would like to thank Mrs. Natali and all those contributed for their financial and moral support. Now I believe more firmly that my son will be treated. I think he will recover and be with us again. “

He was saying that her husband, who is in prison, is pleased that Ahmet went to Germany for treatment. Mrs. Atac added, “I will inform him that the money needed for treatment is raised during our phone call tomorrow. He will be pleased with that. Because all he thinks about is his son”.


Mother Atac intensified her attempts to lift the overseas travel ban and to get a passport. However, the prosecution did not raise the ban.

But Ahmet, apart from his mother in Germany, was always crying. His mood was very poor, and therefore he did not respond to the treatment at the desired level. Mete Atakul, a businessman who hosted Ahmet at his home in Germany, said that Ahmet did not even eat properly because of his grief.


Thanks to intense public pressure, Zekiye Atac’s ban on overseas travel was lifted by court order in February 2020. However, upon the objection made by the prosecutor’s office, the court re-imposed the ban for the second time.

After Mrs. Atac’s failed attempt to meet Ahmet in Germany, Ahmet returned to Turkey to see his mother on February 8, during the two-week break of his treatment.

As a result of the attempts made by Natali Avazyan and HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, Mrs. Atac’s ban on overseas travel was lifted again on February 21, 2020. The German Embassy quickly issued a visa to Mrs. Atac.

On March 2, 2020, Zekiye Atac was stopped once again while flying to Germany from Istanbul Airport with Ahmet. Mother Atac learned at the airport that this time, the 7th High Criminal Court of Mersin issued a travel ban for the third time.


Zekiye Atac posted a video on her social media account with the note “You are killing my son collectively”: “We are in Istanbul now. We flew from Adana to Istanbul this morning for our connecting flight to Cologne. Still, unfortunately, the police confiscated my passport. Passport and visas had been issued, but unfortunately, they re-imposed the ban the next day. Ahmet should be in Cologne tomorrow. He needs to catch up with his treatment. His condition is not well. Please, I want this dilemma resolved!”


Ahmet and his mother stayed at the airport to solve the problem. Public outrage sparked over social media. Singer and philanthropist Haluk Levent announced that he had talked to Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. The next day, on March 3, 2020, the travel ban was lifted again, and Ahmet flew to Cologne with his mother.


Time lost because of judicial processes worsened Ahmet’s health. He had many fractures in his leg bones, his blood test values decreased, and he did not respond to treatment.

Doctors in Cologne stated that Ahmet’s blood values ​​were critically low and that his body could not bear the treatment, and it was too late.

Ahmet and his mother moved back to Turkey on March 11, 2020.

Mother Atac said that the doctors informed her that Ahmet’s blood values ​​have fallen too low since the first treatment. He should gather strength to continue the second stage of the procedure.


A campaign was held for the father to be tried without arrest. On March 27, 2020, the record of a telephone conversation between Ahmet and his father was published.

During the conversation, Ahmet wants his father to ‘come.’ He cries: “Come here now. I can’t stand it anymore.” His father, Harun Atac, replies: “My son, I can’t come. I want to go as well, but I can’t, son. They don’t let me out, my baby. “


After the massive effect of the record, the same day prosecutor’s office allowed Mr. Atac to meet Ahmet for 5 hours for the first time. For a 5-hour meeting, father Harun Atac came to the hospital where Ahmet was.

After meeting his father, photos of Ahmet sleeping with a smile on his face in a long time were published.

All the appeals for Mr. Atac’s release pending trial were subsequently denied.


Arlet Natali Avazyan started a new campaign to boost Ahmet’s morale. Social media users said, ‘I love Ahmet’ with the videos and messages they shared. The hashtag campaign launched by Avazyan on social media grew immensely. Celebrities and famous social media users shared supportive videos.


Ahmet’s condition worsened every day, and eventually, he was taken into intensive care on May 6, 2020. Doctors put Ahmet to sleep.

Permission was asked from the prosecutor’s office for the father Harun Reha Atac, who was detained in Tarsus Prison to see Ahmet for the last time. Those who accompany the family said that Harun Atac was not allowed to be with his son on that night when Ahmet was in intensive care, but only the following day.


At the end of his battle against the bone cancer he was diagnosed with under the conditions of ’emergency state,’ Ahmet had three heart failures. During the early hours of May 7, 2020, Ahmet passed away…


*Translated by Broken Chalk team from https://aktifhaber.com/gundem/el-birligiyle-oldurulen-cocuk-ahmet-burhan-atacin-hayati-h145081.html

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