Ahval’s ‘People of the Year’: the Turkish Medical Association’s Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Dr Sinan Adıyaman, healthcare workers

Last year, Ahval began a tradition of highlighting the people, groups, or institutions that most shaped Turkey, or developments in the country, over the previous 12 months.

For 2020, the decision was easy. A brief discussion revealed that we all at Ahval agreed on two symbolic names in the fight against the coronavirus, their institution, and the self-sacrificing members of their profession.

Ahval’s people of the year for 2020 are: Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Dr Sinan Adıyaman, top officials at the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the TTB itself, and the nation’s healthcare workers.

There are 1,061,635 healthcare workers in Turkey, according to a statement by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca in April. Of these, 165,363 are doctors and 204,969 are nurses.

By October, more than 40,000 had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to official government figures, with 107 losing their lives.

But according to the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) own daily updates, 232 healthcare professionals have died since the outbreak of the pandemic

The TTB was established in Ankara in Istanbul in 1953, before moving to Ankara three decades later. The organisation’s self-stated aims are:

“To protect the health of the people of Turkey, to improve it, and to work for quality and affordable healthcare services accessible to all.

To uphold the medical profession’s ethics.

To speak up for all areas of medical education.

To voice the interests of doctors as a profession everywhere.

To defend the material and spiritual rights of its members and the profession itself.”

It has chambers of medicine in 65 out of 81 provinces in Turkey, and more than 100,000 members.

Dr Fincancı and Dr Adıyaman, the TTB, and all healthcare workers have fought to save lives since COVID-19 began to take hold in Turkey by early 2020.

In doing so, they have found themselves up against powerful vested interests skewing the truth, against government censorship, against insufficient safety precautions and for the dignity of their profession.

Dr Fincancı, in particular, has a special place in Turkey’s heart. Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), she is a forensic medicine expert who has dedicated her life to the fight against torture and the rehabilitation of its victims. In 2020, her work has become ever more important as torture once again became part of life in Turkey.

The editors of Ahval salute Dr Fincancı, Dr Adıyaman, the TTB, and all the healthcare workers around the country who put their own lives on the line in the fight for the lives of others.

We also thank the Turkish Pharmacists Union (TEB) for leading the calls for transparency about COVID-19 vaccines.

In 2019, Ahval’s person of the year was Dr Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, veteran human rights defender and member of parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who showed immense solidarity with all those abducted by law enforcement officials, unjustly imprisoned, or simply had their rights violated.

Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı is an expert in forensic medicine for the detection and rehabilitation of torture. She is a member of faculty at Istanbul University’s Forensic Medicine Department, and a founding member of Forensic Medicine Experts Association, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and Penal Law Studies Association. She studied in the Kadıköy Maarif College and Istanbul University’s Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine.

She is currently the president of the TTB’s Central Council, and has previously worked for the Istanbul Chamber of Medicine, Turkish Pathology Association, U.K.-based Forensic Science Society, France-based Académie Internationale de Médecine Légale et de Médecine Sociale, International Academy of Legal Medicine, New York Academy of Sciences, Human Rights Education Decade National Committee Prisons Working Group, Association de Droit Penale Internationale, Prime Ministerial Human Rights Advisory Council and many oters.

In June 2016, she was arrested on terrorism, together with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and writer Ahmet Nesin, for participating in a solidarity campaign with Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. She was released after 10 days.

Dr Sinan Adıyaman graduated from Ankara University’s Faculty of Medicine. He later joined the university’s Orthopedics and Traumatology Department, where he still works as a professor focusing on hand surgery while undertaking his duties as chairman of the TTB.