6-year-old Yusuf Kerim, who had been battling bone cancer for nearly a year, has tragically passed away. His treatment was reportedly disrupted for four months due to his mother’s incarceration.
Yusuf Kerim’s father, Süleyman Sayın, took to social media on September 27 to share an update, stating, “Unfortunately, Yusuf Kerim’s aggressive spinal cord and brain cancer have re-emerged in his leg, and metastasis has developed in his foot. They are currently attempting to manage his pain and fever with painkillers, but his condition is described as very challenging. He is in need of your prayers.” Despite being in the advanced stages of cancer, 7-year-old Yusuf Kerim had been eagerly waiting to reunite with his mother, who was in prison. Sadly, he passed away. This heartbreaking development also drew attention to 8-year-old Ahmet Burhan, another cancer patient, who, like Yusuf, longed for his father’s presence while he was in prison. A post made by Ahmet Burhan’s mother, Zekiye Ataç, moved many who read it.
Ahmet Burhan, an 8-year-old cancer patient, had been waiting for two years for his father, Harun Ataç, who was incarcerated. His mother, Zekiye Ataç, had been tirelessly advocating for Ahmet’s treatment and for her husband’s release, so they could be together. Zekiye Ataç shared, “Now Yusuf has welcomed Ahmet. They will play together and eagerly await the day when they can seek justice against the oppressors.”\
Tragically, Ahmet Burhan Ataç had also passed away on May 7, 2020, after battling bone cancer and repeatedly calling out for his father while he was in prison during the post-July 15 crackdown on the Gülen Movement.
Zekiye Ataç, in a post from her account, expressed her anguish, saying:
“You have slowly killed us, one by one. Are you content now? They will play together and await the day when they can seek justice against the oppressors. You have once again taken away my beloved Yusuf. Send my greetings to my Ahmed.”
The ordeal began when Ahmet Burhan Ataç’s parents were detained on February 20, 2018, during the state of emergency (OHAL). Harun Ataç, Ahmet’s father, was arrested under allegations of being associated with a terrorist organization due to his employment at a private dormitory in Adana, while Zekiye Ataç was released after two weeks of detention with judicial control and a travel ban.
During this challenging period, there was a glimmer of hope for 8-year-old Ahmet Burhan Ataç, who had bone cancer. A campaign on social media led to the lifting of his mother’s travel ban, allowing them to seek treatment at the ‘Immun Onkologisches Zentrum’ cancer center in Cologne, Germany. Unfortunately, examinations at the cancer center revealed that the disease had advanced significantly, leading Ahmet Burhan and his mother to return to Turkey.
Desperate to reunite her husband and son, Zekiye Ataç appealed to authorities in hopes of boosting Ahmet Burhan’s morale and aiding his recovery. After 22 months of separation, Ahmet Burhan finally had a one-hour visit with his father when the Adana Prosecutor’s Office granted permission. This touching reunion marked the last time the young boy saw his father.
In the final stages of his illness, Ahmet Burhan, constantly yearning for his “father,” cried out in his last moments. His family requested permission from the prosecutor for Harun Ataç to see his son one last time, but it was only granted for the morning due to security concerns. Tragically, Ahmet passed away around 2:00 AM on May 7 without having the chance to see his beloved father one last time.
The story is reminiscent of another case where a mother, Gültens Sayın, was separated from her son, Yusuf Kerim, who was undergoing treatment at Istanbul University Çapa Faculty of Medicine Hospital. Gültens Sayın had been sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison for her alleged association with a terrorist organization, based on her previous employment at a dormitory in Adıyaman and her salary being deposited in Bank Asya before July 15.
Despite doctors giving Yusuf Kerim, a 6-year-old with Stage 4 Ewing Sarcoma cancer, a mere 20% chance of survival, he continuously called out for his mother during his treatment. Following public outrage, Gültens Sayın was granted special permission to visit her son in the hospital but was later returned to prison.
The legislative change that ultimately allowed Yusuf Kerim to reunite with his mother was introduced by HDP Kocaeli Deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. Following the passage of the 7th Judicial Package in the Grand National Assembly and its signing by President Erdoğan, the law came into effect on April 5 and was published in the Official Gazette. Two weeks after the law’s enactment, Gültens Sayın was released from Bakırköy Women’s Prison, but sadly, Yusuf Kerim had already passed away.