Which One Is More Difficult: Combatting Azrael (Angel of Death) or Turkish Bureaucracy?

A terminally-ill professor’s quest for medical treatment abroad galvanized public. Authorities are dragging their foot for allowing him to travel.

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Professor Haluk Savas.

“My expected life left is 39 months, 30 of which already passed. It seems that I’ll spend the remaining nine months by communicating with various departments of the state,” a cancer patient lamented on Twitter on Monday.

Professor Haluk Savas, who was sacked by a government decree in 2016 along with more than 150,000 public workers, finally took to Twitter in a desperate plea to make his case known by the whole world. He was driven by a sense of as much urgency as despair in the face of a wall of negligence on the part of authorities.

Earlier this year, he was acquitted of all coup-related and terrorism charges. Yet, the former Psychiatry professor is unable to return to his post. Punishing unemployment aside, he is now combatting cancer, which recently resurfaced again.

But his renewed fight is not without challenges. Although charges against him were dropped and the travel ban lifted, his bid for travel ran into a series of new problems when he went to Adana Governor’s Office on Monday.

Officials told him that his passport was canceled and they are unable to issue a new one. He vented his frustration and exasperation on Twitter in a series of tweets documenting the absurdity and travesty of the whole affair.

His plea, however, galvanized the public, stirring tens of thousands of people to action to demand a passport for him. #HalukSavasaPasaport (Passport for Haluk Savas) became a hit on social media, with thousands outpouring support for him.

“This is my basic human right. If the Turkish state and government are not giving me my basic right as a human, that means the state is not practising basic international law, humanitarian and moral values,” he told Euronews on Wednesday.

He seeks immunotherapy, a new method that could help his frailing body’s immune system to fight cancer. The new method, according to personal research of the professor, is now being practiced in Japan, Cuba or the U.S.

To encapsulate the essence and scope of the post-coup purge and its calamitous impact on people’s lives in Turkey, one can give hundreds, even thousands, of real-life stories. But you don’t have to be drowned in colossal details. Professor Savas’ tragedy, in that regard, would tell it all.

His case illuminates the all-encompassing aspects of official negligence, a stubborn bureaucracy, a theatrical farce in Turkey’s fractured judicial system, a broken communication mechanism between government departments, and a lack of conscience and empathy on behalf of the authorities.

The professor’s story threw the forgotten tragedy of terminally-ill prisoners and purge victims back to the public spotlight. Hundreds of terminally-ill inmates expect to be released, only to no avail. The revocation of passports for dismissed workers left a profound negative impact on those who need immediate medical treatment elsewhere.

It reminds the tragic story of little Furkan and others who were denied treatment abroad by authorities after their passports were revoked. The government has no compunction in turning a complete blind eye on the calls from families of dismissed workers. In Savas’s case, authorities were felt compelled to act, at least they pretend to show some interest in the plight of the former psychiatrist after mounting public pressure on social media.

On Tuesday, he was invited to the Office of Adana Governor and he met with the governor’s deputy along with representatives of a number of leading non-governmental organizations and bar associations.

Yet, his case has inconclusively been referred to the Ministry of Interior. His situation, for all those efforts and public support, still remains in limbo.

When he grumbled on Monday, the professor agonized to gauge which was more difficult to combat with: Azrael (the angel of death) or the Turkish bureaucracy?

Written by

Virginia-based journalist and writer. Politics, culture, art, and technology. American political affairs, Turkey, the MidEast, and beyond. Twitter: @abyasun

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