In Memoriam: Dilek Kumcu

Dear Global Freedom Exchange and Vital Voices Community, 

With heavy hearts, we write to inform you of the passing of one of our own – Dilek Kumcu – a Human Rights Defender and Global Freedom Exchange Fellow from the inaugural 2013 cohort, who passed away at the age of 37 due to a rare, but treatable medical condition.  

Dilek was a life-long advocate for the rights of children and youth. As a lawyer, researcher, coordinator, facilitator, and volunteer for diverse projects and programs dedicated to the rights of young people across sectors – she sought to create and strengthen support networks for young people throughout Turkey and beyond. Most recently, she served as Parliamentary Group Advisor, where she never lost sight of her driving force to protect and defend the rights of the next generation. This loss is heartbreaking for her family and friends, community, Turkey, and all those she impacted around the globe – including her GFE sisters.


Dilek’s life and passing underscore the importance of health as a human right. Dilek had long struggled to obtain treatment for her cystic fibrosis – a rare, but treatable disease. She had been fighting  for justice – her right to a healthy life. Most recently, her struggle played out in the courts, given the life-extending drug she needed was not on the approved payment list in Turkey for treatment of her condition.Though she most recently succeeded in petitioning the court for her medication, it arrived too late. Every day, people across the globe lose their lives due to barriers to access and affordability of medications. This tragedy reminds us of the critical importance of identifying and addressing global disparities in the right to health.  

Dilek’s legacy will live on through her family, friends, colleagues, and collaborators in the children, youth, anti-human trafficking and human rights communities in Turkey and around the world.  

Dilek’s GFE sisters have noted that “Dilek’s passion and conviction is truly inspirational.” In the words of a GFE Fellow from her same cohort from the Philippines: “I met Dilek in 2013 as cohorts of the first Global Freedom Exchange (GFE). When I visited Turkey in 2014, that was when I learned she had been literally fighting for her life for so long, and it made me even more in awe of her. She never made her illness define her life. She was in search of making a huge difference in this world, and she did, in her very short-lived life. Rest in peace and love, my friend and human rights defender.” 

“Dilek; You are a real human rights defender. All civil society organizations will remember you for your efforts, hard-working personality, you provided great inputs and initiatives to human rights. We will never forget you.You are in our hearts.-Fellow GFE Fellow from Turkey”

If you want to learn more about Dilek, this articlehighlights the legacy she leaves behind and the important work she reminds us we must continue. 


The Global Freedom Exchange Team