Evil Unveiled: The State Murder of a Cancer-Fighting Kid in Turkey

The slow-motion but steady march of Ahmet to his death, after endless chapters of official obstruction for his treatment abroad, is a textbook case of state brutality in plain sight.

Abdullah Ayasun
5 min readMay 6, 2020


In a rare moment of union, Ahmet Burhan Atac is seen with his father at an Istanbul hospital early in 2020.

Ahmet Burhan Atac, a 10-year-old kid whose epic battle against cancer has become a defining feature of the agony that permeated Turkey’s forgotten community of purge victims, has finally passed away.

He died early on Thursday (on local time) in Turkey. The last words the little Ahmet incoherently mumbled while on mechanical ventilation were the embodiment of what he most craved for during his last moments: a reunion with his father at least for the last time. He died away, uttering “ daddy, daddy, daddy …”

It was not the fact that Ahmet eventually died, but the way how he slowly marched to his (probably preventable) death what struck the public, at least those who closely monitored his situation from the beginning, most.

It was only three hours after I penned down a sketchy piece to map out the contours of his slow-motion but steady march to his destiny. It was a journey played out in plain sight in front of the whole society. And when fate has finally issued its unambiguous verdict, the shared public reaction on social media was an unmistakable combination of despair, helplessness and pure rage.

Wails of lamentation echoed across Twitter as thousands poured their grief and fury. What made people more aggrieved and furious was the fact that Ahmet’s fate is sealed more by the obstructionist measures of the political apparatus than the natural course of his illness. This would not have to be the end of the story. This tragic end would have been prevented indeed.

A Regime of Obstruction

One of the defining aspect of authoritarian regimes during tumultuous times is the fact that opponents feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crackdown put in place: there are so many tragedies that it simply creates an undeniable sense of resignation on the side of victims that they mostly feel impotent to respond whenever a call for arms for digital (or social) mobilization is…



Abdullah Ayasun

New York-based journalist and writer. Columbia School of Journalism. 2023 White House Correspondents' Association Scholar. Twitter: @abyasun