The Turkish government has vilified a social media campaign to allocate the unclaimed 75-million-lira New Year's Eve lottery prize to the treatment of children who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
The unclaimed 75 million Turkish Liras was transferred to Turkey's Wealth Fund because the winning lottery ticket was only for a quarter of the jackpot.
The campaign started on social media when pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu mentioned the Family and Social Policies Ministry in a tweet suggesting the allocation of the funds to child SMA patients.
"The 75 million transferred from the National Lottery to the Wealth Fund should be spent on SMA patients. These babies and kids are dying," Gergerlioğlu said.
Milli piyangodan varlık fonuna aktarılan 75 milyon sma hastalarına harcansın.— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) January 2, 2021
Bu bebekler, çocuklar ölüyor!!!@ailevecalisma
The cause quickly spread on social media with a hashtag that translates roughly to "give the prize to kids with SMA," with opposition politicians and thousands of social media users supporting it.
"The 75 million Turkish Liras transferred from the National Lottery to the Wealth Fund should be used for kids with SMA!" tweeted Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
Milli Piyango'dan Varlık Fonu'na aktarılan 75 milyon ₺ SMA hastası çocuklar için kullanılsın!#İkramiyeSmalıÇocuklaraVerilsin— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) January 3, 2021
İzmir Mayor Tunç Soyer and Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş from the CHP both echoed İmamoğlu's message on social media.
Opposition Good Party (İYİ) leader Meral Akşener also joined in on the campaign.
Milli Piyango'dan Varlık Fonu'na aktarılan 75 milyon ₺ SMA hastası çocuklar için kullanılsın!#İkramiyeSmalıÇocuklaraVerilsin— Meral Akşener (@meral_aksener) January 3, 2021
Meanwhile, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca dubbed the efforts to re-allocate the funds a "dirty campaign," and discouraged the public from supporting it in a Jan. 3 press release.
The minister said that there isn't a single SMA patient who can't receive treatment in Turkey and that the state has covered expenses for every single SMA patient.
The campaign to re-allocate the jackpot for SMA treatment is an "organization that serves the purposes of pharmaceutical companies," the press statement said.
"Our government is strong enough to treat all. patients without concern over resources. The real issue here is defending pharmaceutical companies at the expense of surpassing moral guidelines and making our state look weak," the statement said.
İlaç şirketlerinin baskısı ile çocuklarımızın kobay olarak kullanılmasına izin vermeyeceğiz. Ülkemizde SMA hastalığı görülmeyene, mevcut tüm hastalarımız tedavi edilene kadar mücadelemiz devam edecektir. pic.twitter.com/qAO1xC6GHM— Dr. Fahrettin Koca (@drfahrettinkoca) January 3, 2021
"This is a man who ordered millions of doses of the [COVID-19] vaccine before it was approved in China, or in phase three of trials," journalist Bülent Mumay tweeted about Koca's pharmaceutical company theory.
Çin’de bile nihai onayı alınmayan, Faz 3 sonuçları tam olmayan aşıdan milyonlarca doz sipariş eden bakan konuşuyor... 👇 https://t.co/gkLmeRnZfm— Bülent Mumay (@bulentmumay) January 4, 2021
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chair Mahir Ünal also dubbed the campaign "dark propaganda" by the opposition.
"This is not about our children who suffer from SMA. This is centralized dark propaganda based on lies, that abuses our kids with SMA," the deputy chair said about the opposition.
Mesele; SMA’lı evlatlarımız değil. Her mesele üzerinden yalana dayalı yürüttükleri ve şimdi SMA’lı evlatlarımızı istismar eden ve tek merkezden kontrol edilen çirkin bir kara propaganda pic.twitter.com/5CjHrgDVGF— Mahir Ünal 🇹🇷 (@mahirunal) January 3, 2021
Ankara is no stranger to barring popular efforts by opposition parties, as a fundraising campaign by the Ankara and Istanbul municipalities was shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mayors were subject to criminal charges.