Impact of anti-terrorism laws on sick children – A Turkish perspective

Turkey is bound by several regional and international declarations which require the State to ensure and protect human rights and fundamental rights. However, in practice, there is a serious deficit of the same. This can especially be seen through the draconian measures implemented through the counter-terrorism measures, also known as the anti-terrorism laws in Turkey. While in theory, these laws seem to meet human rights standards, a closer look at their implementation shows an undue curtailment of human rights by these Turkish laws.


According to the Turkish constitution, any prisoner who has a child with severe illness has a right to take care of the kids. But the prisoners accused under anti-terrorism law cannot care for their children.[1] This especially poses a problem since it can be seen as a violation of the rights of the children guaranteed under the Constitution of Turkey[2] nor does it ensure that equality is guaranteed[3] as measures taken for the sake of children are not seen as a violation of equality.


Multiple cases have indicated that the rights of children have been violated such as the case of Nurefsan Ketenci a differently abled girl who was pressured to leave her school due to her father being accused under the anti-terrorism laws. The family were living as refugees in Germany due to the lack of support received from the government, especially in the case of the sick girl.[4]






Selman Çalışkan was denied proper and timely treatment abroad due to the travel ban issued to his mother by the Turkish authorities and his father who was a prisoner accused of anti-terrorism.[5]



Similarly the case of Ahmet Burhan Atac where his father too was a prisoner accused under the anti-terrorism law. The arbitrary detention of the father denying him to be with his son at least during the treatment process coupled with the travel ban issued to his mother as well as arbitrary detention, made him receive treatment in the absence of both his parents and there was a delay in the treatment due to the abuse in the judicial systems.[6]





Kübra Kuzan was diagnosed with a brain stem tumour at the age of four. The only wish of the family was for their daughter to overcome this severe illness with their father. The prosecutor did not even allow father Ertuğrul Kuzan to see his painful daughter. After a long time, when a short leave came, it was too late. The innocent girl could not recognize her father.




Mehmet Erdoğan, the 6-year-old son of Rasih Erdoğan, an English teacher with a statutory decree, who has been imprisoned for 2.5 years in Kahramanmaraş, could not be awakened after an operation due to a cyst on his arm and passed away longing for his father in the hospital in Ankara, where he was being treated.





İbrahim Kılcan was a child with muscle disease and a heart transplant. It was her only wish to see her teacher father, İrfan Oğuz Kılcan, who was arrested after he was expelled by statutory decree. After receiving treatment, İbrahim passed away longing for his father, whom he could not see after he was arrested.




Hamza Travac, 27 months old, was a 98% disabled baby. He died in Trabzon due to a lung infection. His father, Hasan Travac, who has been imprisoned in Giresun for 28 months, could not attend the funeral of Hamza, whom he could not be with when he was born.




Hakan Dağdeviren is an 11-year-old boy diagnosed with leukaemia whose parents are imprisoned as part of a crackdown in Turkey targeting followers of the faith-based Gülen movement. Hakan needs his parents to be able to battle his disease.




Berk Görmez, a 14-year-old disabled son of a Turkish couple, who was dismissed by a government decree under the rule of emergency, lost his life. Berk’s father Bekir Görmez has not been permitted to visit him for the last 17 months despite his and his mother’s severe health problems.





Bilal Burak, his 17-year-old congenitally disabled son, whose father was imprisoned, passed away. The arrested father was able to attend the funeral of his son Bilal Burak, who was buried, with his hands cuffed.




The above-mentioned children are some of the many children who had to undergo severe treatment for their illnesses.[7] These children had to do so in the absence of one or both parents since they were prisoners and were not allowed to be with their children during this difficult period. A lot of these children have since passed away without being able to see their parents since the parent(s) were not given any form of release from prison to be with the ailing child.


Currently, Gulten Sayin is a prisoner accused of anti-terrorism and her son, Yusuf Kerim Sayın, is currently suffering from cancer. She is only allowed to visit her son at the hospital for half a day since no steps have been taken by the Ministry of Justice for her release or no arrangement has been made where she can spend sufficient time caring for her child during this painful period.[8] This case is currently garnering huge attention not just from the public but also from renowned leaders from within the country and seeks for the government to make a change in the Constitution for such exceptional cases. Her husband has complained against Turkey with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child with the assistance of international human rights lawyers David Matas and Sarah Teich. The accused in this case was the primary caregiver and has not been provided with the requested compassionate leave to care for her son.






There should be an increase in the internal capacity of the country to address such issues and take immediate and effective steps, especially in the case of arbitrary detention or a travel ban which adversely affects a third party particularly vulnerable groups such as a sick child of a prisoner accused of anti-terrorism.

Humanitarian protection should be given to the prisoner of anti-terrorism and the prisoner’s family members during this difficult time of being physically present for the child and not finding ways to further burden the child. Humanitarian protection given to the prisoner accused of anti-terrorism should not be seen as a form of support for terrorism. Awareness among society and the decision makers within the country that even prisoners are entitled to “rights” despite the crimes that they are accused of having committed.

Adequate remedies need to be put in place at all international, regional and local levels to ensure that in future when situations such as these do arise there is a proper plan of action to prevent unnecessary legal issues and hindrances and have a swift movement to ensure that the other stakeholders such as the sick child are not impacted by the gaping human rights shortcomings seen in the anti-terrorism measures implemented by a country.

An emphasis needs to be laid on the right to privacy and family life, health-related rights, especially in the case of sick children who become innocent victims in the abuse of the system that takes place when human rights law needs to be ensured in the case of prisoners. We need to have an effective and transparent mechanism which can be laid out by international organizations and can then be incorporated as a law by concerned countries. This could potentially reduce the State’s inclination to loosely invoke national security or project the prisoner accused of anti-terrorism being there for his or her sick child as an issue that goes against the State’s national interest.

Lastly, access to human rights experts to expedite such cases should be an option given to prisoners accused of anti-terrorism.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states under Article 3 that individuals have a right to life, liberty and security. Under Article 9 no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. In Turkey, individuals’ rights are being restricted under the veil of anti-terrorism laws. This escalating repression of rights and political agenda that is taking over has sustained heavy blows on Turkish society.

Written by

Caren Thomas

The above article is submitted to the United Nations for the Call for inputs: Global Study on the Impact of Counter-Terrorism Measures on Civil Society and Civic Space

Here is the submitted report



  1. Ahmet Burhan Atac: The Story of the Child Who Got Killed Collectively* – Broken Chalk
  2. Disabled girl forced to leave special needs school due to father’s links to Gülen movement dies – Stockholm Center for Freedom
  3. Jailed mother reunites with a son suffering from cancer for half a day – Stockholm Center for Freedom
  4. Kübra Kuzan
  5. [Update] Mother of young cancer patient about to lose an eye: My child will die without seeing his father – Stockholm Center for Freedom
  6. Mehmet Erdoğan
  7. İbrahim Kılcan
  8. Hamza Travaç
  9. Boy struggling with leukaemia needs jailed parents’ support, grandfather says – Stockholm Center for Freedom
  10. 14-year-old disabled Berk dies in absence of his father who is in prison over alleged Gülen links – Stockholm Center for Freedom
  11. Bilal Burak Bozbay
  12. Uğurcan Gençtürk

[1] Law No. 5275 – 17.4, 17.6

[2] Article  41, Constitution of Turkey

[3] Article 10, Constitution of Turkey

[4] Disabled girl forced to leave special needs school due to father’s links to Gülen movement dies, Stockholm Center for freedom, July 26th, 2021.

[5] Mother of young cancer patient about to lose an eye: My child will die without seeing his father, Stockholm Center for freedom, July 8th, 2020.

[6] Ahmet Burhan Atac: The Story of the Child Who Got Killed Collectively, Broken Chalk


[8] Jailed mother reunites with son suffering from cancer for half a day, Stockholm Center for freedom, January, 27th 2023.