The story of two years with resistance, suffering, and persecution is told from September 24, 2018, when he was diagnosed with cancer, until May 7, 2020, when he died.
Zekiye-Harun Reha Ataç’s child Ahmed Burhan Ataç was diagnosed with bone cancer on September 24, 2018. At the time he was diagnosed, his father was arrested. Ahmet’s two-year-long struggle mirrors the situation in Turkey.
On February 20, 2018, while Ahmet was playing games with his friends in the nursery, his mother Zekiye Ataç and his father Harun Reha Ataç were detained. Ahmet was only six years old. The mother Ataç, who was expelled during the state of emergency, was detained for 14 days. She was released after being arrested for about three months. The father Ataç was expelled from the teaching profession with a Decree-Law and got arrested after being detained for 13 days over being a director in a private dormitory related to the Gulen Movement. The diagnosis of Ahmet’s disease coincides with the period that he has been left without a mother and father for three months.
“No discount for you!”
Harun Reha Ataç, who was on trial at the Adana 2nd High Criminal Court, was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison after his son was diagnosed with cancer. On November 30, 2018, the reports about Ahmet’s illness and chemotherapy period were submitted to the court to request Harun Reha Ataç’s release pending appeal. The judge decided to continue his detention by saying, “I have no discount for you.”
Because Ahmet did not recover with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he was operated in July 2019, and the tumor in the shoulder blade was cleaned. However, in September 2019, it was determined that the tumor had spread to the lung.
Via social media, Zekiye Ataç, said, “We had a test this week. A tumor was detected in the lung. Doctors were also shocked at the tumor’s growth in such a short time. I have no choice. My son is dying before my eyes. “Social media users put the issue on the agenda after the videos of the mother’s comments and Ahmet’s speech for his father’s release.
A campaign was launched on social media for Ahmet’s father to be tried without arrest and to be with him during the treatment process. Zekiye Ataç said, “There was a phone call from my husband in the morning, but Ahmet did not want to talk to his father on the phone. Because he couldn’t stand, but then he asked me, “What does my father say? My God, I wish my dad comes.” Thousands of social media users joined the label about Ahmet and his father’s release, and Ahmet was known widely by public opinion.
Ahmet’s mother detained
While the intense criticisms directed to Adana Courthouse about the difficulties for Ahmet’s treatment abroad and his father’s not being released, mother Zekiye Ataç was detained for the second time on October 15, 2019. Ahmet was without a father and a mother. Zekiye Ataç was accused of being a ‘member of the organization’ because she accepted the aids given for the treatment of his son. Zekiye Ataç was released the next day under the condition of judicial control after the reactions increased further.
As Ahmet’s disease progressed, his doctors directed him to the Immun-Oncology Center in Germany and stated that he could be treated there. In the first contact with the clinic, it was stated that Ahmet should be brought quickly. The family did not have the economic power to pay the expenses. Ahmet went to Germany on January 20, 2020, after a businessman said he would pay the first stage expenses. His mother could not go with Ahmet because of her travel ban. Ahmet went to Germany with his 70-year-old grandmother.
Required sum collected in 24 hours
Artel Natali Avazyan, a rights advocate who followed the case of Ahmet, started a donation campaign on January 24, 2020, for treatment expenses. The required 50 thousand euro was collected in 24 hours.
Mother Ataç said that the collection of the necessary money for the treatment was very moving: “I would like to thank Mrs. Natali and everyone who contributed in money and spirits. My belief in Ahmet’s recovery is strengthened. I think he will recover and have a nice family day.” She also added that her husband was also pleased that Ahmet went to Germany for treatment: “I will inform him that the money needed for treatment is collected. He will be very happy because he always thinks about Ahmet and us.”
Application for travel permission
Zekiye Ataç intensified her attempts to get travel permission and obtain a passport. However, the prosecution did not allow her to travel abroad.
It was stated that Ahmet was constantly crying and was depressed, and therefore did not respond to the treatment. Businessman Mete Atakul, who hosted Ahmet at his home in Germany, stated that Ahmet did not even eat because he was sad.
Travel ban restored three times
Due to intense public pressure, Zekiye Ataç could get travel permission in February 2020. However, upon the objection made by the prosecutor’s office, the court canceled her passport for the second time.
Because her mother could not go to Germany, Ahmed returned to Turkey to see his mother on February 8 for two weeks.
As a result of the efforts of Natali Avazyan and MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, travel permission was given again on February 21, 2020. The German Embassy quickly issued a visa to mother Ataç.
While trying to go to Germany on March 2, 2020, Zekiye Ataç learned at the airport that the Mersin 7th High Criminal Court canceled her passport for the third time.
“You are killing my son”
Zekiye Ataç posted a video on her social media account with the note, “You are killing my son in cooperation”.
Ahmet and his mother started waiting at the airport to solve the problem. The reactions have increased via social media. Singer Haluk Levent announced that he had met with Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. The next day, on March 3, 2020, the travel permission was given again, and Ahmet flew to Germany with his mother.
Too late for treatment
Ahmet’s disease spread because judicial processes lasted too long. The blood values of Ahmet, who had many fractures in the leg bones, also decreased and did not respond to the treatment.
Doctors stated that Ahmet’s blood values were very low, and his body could not support the treatment.
Ahmet and his mother moved back to Turkey on March 11, 2020.
Phone conversation between father and son
A campaign was started for Ahmet’s father to be tried without an arrest to support his son during the treatment period. On March 27, 2020, the recorded telephone conversation between Ahmet and his father was published.
Ahmet wants his father to ‘come’. “Come here now; I can not stand.” His father, Harun Ataç, answered, crying: “My son, I cannot come. I want to come too, but I can’t, son. They don’t let me go, baby.”
After the intense effect created by the recorded speech, the prosecutor’s office allowed the father to meet his son for the first time. For a 5-hour meeting, father Harun Ataç came to the hospital to see Ahmet.
After the meeting, the photos of Ahmet, who slept smiling, were published.
Subsequently, all of the appeals for Harun Ataç’s trial without arrest were rejected.
Second campaign for morale: I love Ahmet
Arlet Natali Avazyan started a new campaign to cheer up Ahmet. Social media users said, ‘I love Ahmet’ with the videos and messages they shared. Famous people and social media users shared motivating videos.
Intensive care: Dad not allowed
Ahmet, whose condition worsened every day, got worse on May 6, 2020, and was taken to intensive care. Doctors put Ahmet to sleep.
Permission was requested from the prosecutor’s office for the father, Harun Reha Ataç, who was arrested in Tarsus Prison to see Ahmet for the last time. The prosecutor was stubborn not to let Harun Ataç see his son before the morning.
Ahmet left us
The heart of Ahmet, who struggled with the bone cancer disease he had caught in 2018 under the conditions of ‘state of emergency’, stopped three times. On May 7, 2020, Ahmet closed his eyes.