Medeni Arifoglu was one of the best-known businessmen in Turkey’s eastern province of Bingöl. He was awarded in 2012 by the then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his contributions to the city’s economy. He was also a financial consultant. Turkish authorities froze all his assets in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016 and sent him to prison. He faced violation of his rights in prison even when his appendix burst.
He was not allowed to see a doctor for three weeks. He told his wife how he banged on the door and crawled to the infirmary while shouting, “I am dying” to get help.
Arifoğlu had already had health problems when he was jailed due to liver transplantation he had undergone before prison. The violations that he suffered in prison grew more intense after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in July 2018. He was facing “exceptional cruelty” as pro-Kurdish MP and human right defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said. He shuttled back and forth between Malatya (a south-eastern province) and the prison of Adana due to the lack of patient room for inmates. One day his condition took a turn for the worse, and he refused all treatments by saying, “Leave me be, I want to die.”
Arifoğlu, a father of three, was released in March 2019 from prison after great efforts by Gergerlioğlu and his wife, but there was nothing left to do. Businessman Arifoğlu passed away on January 25, 2020. His wife Nuran Arifoğlu said in an exclusive interview with Bold news, “My husband was released but, they put him on a path leading to death. They gave us a funeral. He died in suffering”.
Arifoğlu was arrested two times and sentenced to 7 years and six months in prison on charges of membership in a terrorist organization. His case was before an appeal court.
Here is his wife’s account of events when she took care of him for 35 days under the surveillance of four soldiers, one commander, and one warden:
“He underwent transplantation of liver in 2012”
“My husband was taken into custody on July 25, 2016, and put in the prison of Bingöl three days later. They transferred him to the prison of Malatya 20 days after. Then, his life in prison got worse. They made life miserable for him in prison. They threw him into a prison cell and did not let him go to the hospital, and he returned from the edge of death many
times. He suffered from several health problems during his time in the Malatya prison. He started having health problems stemming from liver transplantation he had in 2012. He was released two and a half months later but re-arrested three and half months after his release. He suffered seizures, extreme loss of weight, exhaustion. He could barely show up for prison visits. He was always sick.”
“The doctor said he faces a risk of organ loss”
“I submitted applications to many authorities because of his health condition. I sought a lot of help. Because I knew that my husband could not survive with those health problems. He was transferred to Turgut Özal Hospital in Malatya. The doctor who performed the liver transplantation surgery said he would lose his liver if he remains in prison.
“We learned that he was hospitalized when we went to prison visit. We rushed to the hospital, but we couldn’t see him. I’ve seen some of Gergerlioglu’s pieces of writings. I wrote to him, and he returned quickly. He voiced our situation in parliament. MP from Batman province Mehmet Ali Alsan also addressed it in the parliament.”
“He was taking 19 pills in a day”
“My husband was supposed to take 19 pills a day. He had taken 17 pills initially, and then, he started taking two anti-depressants. He said his condition was heading for worse. He was taken back to prison after having stayed in intensive care for 21 days. Prison turned into a nightmare for him. He could no longer go out for a walk and barely made it to prison visits. It continued like this for long.
“They took him to a hospital in July 2018, and a five cm-tumor was spotted in his kidney. But they did not inform him about it. He kept saying he could not sleep due to intense pain. We were helpless. We had no one but Gergerlioğlu to ask for help. He did whatever he could do. When he was retaken to hospital in November 2018, they said the tumor reached a size of 8 cm.”
“Tumour became 14 cm in five days”
“We were told that they would take him to Balcalı hospital in Adana for kidney surgery. We did not want him to be taken there, but we were relieved a bit in thinking that he would get better after surgery. The doctor in Balcalı hospital said he could not operate due to the lack
of patient room special for inmates. I traveled between Malatya and Adana to see him. I found his condition to get worse in each visit. He was feeling very cold. He put on a goose-down jacket. He said he was freezing and sleeping with it. I couldn’t convince anyone that he could no longer live under these conditions. 50 days passed like this.”
“Leave me alone; I want to die”
“They took him back to prison. He was saying, ‘I want no longer to live, leave me alone, I do not want treatment. Because you are not sincere in treatment. If you care for me, then take me to the hospital.’ He could not take the risk of going again to the hospital for nothing because they did not assure him of receiving treatment. We learned that my husband was
brought back to Malatya since he refused treatments in Adana.”
Cancer blew up a bone in his neck
“We became happy when he returned to Malatya. Since Turgut Özal medical center was going to perform the surgery and it was where he had been operated before. But they made him wait for 20 days. He was taken a few times to emergency to ease his pain with painkillers but, cancer developed metastases. It blew a bone up in his neck, his arm could no longer function, and he couldn’t walk. He was in terrible condition, in other words. His appearance took a gut-wrenching turn.
He was put in hospital after great efforts. Tumors in his neck were removed; however, it was too late for his kidney. Tumors spread to main arteries, and doctors said he might not wake up if they operate on him. So, they refused the operation. His other organs were also targeted by the cancer cell. All this happened in 6-7 months. I took care of him for 35 days, along with four soldiers, one commander and one
warden I went to see the prosecutor after the operation on his neck. I asked for permission to tend him in the hospital. I said, please do not consider my request too much; let me be at his bedside. The prosecutor accepted my request. I was trying to take care of him all day long
in the presence of four soldiers, one commander, and warden.
“Although the Institute of Forensic Sciences had refused all our previous requests as saying, “There was no issue for him to stay in prison,” it granted this time a delay of execution for six months. But it was already too late. There was no use in releasing him at this point. When a tumor in his neck was removed, it spread to his brain and throughout the body.”
“He had longed for having a conversation with his kids”
“We couldn’t see any smile on his face after his release. All he wished for was talking with his kids. But he never could do it. He was praying for being able to live 2-3 years more to do something for his kids. This happened neither. He knew he was going to die. He had some wishes and desires. But it was all over. It was too late for my husband; arrangements should be put in place for other sick inmates.
“The reason I am voicing our victimhood is that there are 1334 sick prisoners, pregnant mothers, and babies behind bars, as I know. Those sick inmates could not survive prison under those conditions. I saw myself how my husband wasted away in three years. I watched how his eyes faded away, and his death came closer every week. There are so few patients surviving cancer, and this is only possible with high motivation and spirit. This is not possible in prison. It was too late for my husband, they released him too late, and justice for his death is left for the afterlife. For God’s sake, some arrangements must be made for other sick prisoners.”
Nuran Arifoğlu described his husband’s first times in prison when his appendix burst, his last days, his funeral and her kids on our first phone conversations:
“He was kept waiting for three weeks when his appendix burst. He was poisoned, but nothing happened due to the antibiotics he took. He told me later on, “Nuran; they saw me crawling on cameras. I went upstairs to the infirmary by crawling and told them I was dying”. They scolded him for banging on the door. They took him to a hospital, and my
husband was put in the intensive care unit right away. They did not let me wait at the door of the unit, things that others are allowed to do have become a crime for me.”
“Those calling him traitor came to his funeral”
“I was leaving his patient room together with the soldiers at night. His time in intensive care was the most difficult for us. One day when I was sitting next to his bed, I heard the commander saying they would discharge him from the hospital. It drove me crazy. They made the doctor discharge him. I started yelling, and I said I wasn’t going to let my husband be discharged, even you put a bullet in my head. I have pictures of him showing which condition he was in when they discharged him.
“Chemotherapies did not work afterward. We heard about a smart drug and went to Hacettepe University. However, they couldn’t use it on my husband because of his liver transplantation history. He was given another chemotherapy treatment, but he passed away before completing the procedure. We were at Elazığ University hospital for his last five days. We were just sitting at his bedside and praying.
“Those who were shouting “Death to Medeni Arifoğlu” in Democracy Watches following the coup attempt were present in his post-funeral reception. My husband was chosen as the sacrifice of this city.”
“My daughter was diagnosed with heart failure”
“My daughter developed heart failure in traveling for prison visits. His father wanted her to study law, and she is now a 21 years old law student. My son is 15 years old, and he is in high school now. My husband’s only dream was to have a conversation with his kids at the
same table. He could not pass a single night without pain.”