Eleven members of the Turkish Medical Association’s (TTB) central council were detained on Jan. 30 for their statement criticizing the military’s “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria, triggering a reaction from the main opposition party.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for 11 members of the council, including TTB head Raşit Tükel.
The prosecutor said police in the capital Ankara had started legal proceedings and search-and-detention operations were ongoing in eight provinces.
The TTB had issued a declaration stating that “War is a Matter of Public Health” upon the start of the cross-border operation into Afrin last week, saying “No to war, peace immediately.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the union of “treason” on Jan. 29, amid the detention of over 300 people across Turkey for social media posts criticizing the Afrin operation.
“Believe me, they are not intellectuals at all, they are a gang of slaves. They are the servants of imperialism,” Erdoğan told ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members in the Black Sea province of Amasya.
Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said on Jan. 29 that the ministry had filed a lawsuit to remove members of the TTB’s central council from their posts.
“They do not represent Turkish doctors. The TTB has no right to make such a statement and it made a big mistake,” Demircan told reporters.
“There will be consequences for making such a statement at such a critical moment,” he added.
CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu slams detentions
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed the detentions, accusing the government of trying to “silence the association.”
“You [the government] do not let doctors speak their minds. You oppress them,” he said at the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting yesterday.
“These [detentions of doctors] are not right and they will only hurt Turkey’s image abroad,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.
At the group meeting, the CHP leader read out the statement made by the TTB that prompted the investigation that eventually resulted in the detention of 11 doctors.
“In the statement the doctors say: ‘War, which destroys nature and humans, is a man-made public health issue.” Is that right? Yes, that is right,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, pointing to the consequences of the civil war in Syria.
“They [doctors] have called for democracy and peace but you round them up at dawn. Such actions will only undermine public support for the Afrin operation,” he added.
“All of us have to say ‘yes’ to human rights and ‘no’ to terror,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, stressing that the CHP fully supports the ongoing Afrin operation in Syria.
Two CHP lawmakers, Ali Şeker and Niyazi Nefi Kara, issued a statement of support for the doctors’ group after the detentions, saying NGOs and intellectuals who oppose the war “are not alone.”
“The detention of the council members is an attack on the values of the TTB, not against the association’s rhetoric,” said Onur Karahancı, a member of the board of directors of the Ankara Medical Association.