Global medical organisations demand Turkey free pro-peace doctors

Global medical organisations have demanded the release of leaders of the Turkish Medical Association who were detained in Turkey for calling for peace after Turkish forces launched an offensive into northern Syria.

The Turkish Medical Association – the professional body of 80 percent of the country’s doctors – said in a statement last week that “war is a public health problem”, in response to the military incursion into the Syrian district of Afrin.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the association “terrorist-lovers”, prompting a criminal investigation. Police then arrested the head of the association and 10 of its central committee in dawn raids on charges of making “terrorism propaganda”.

The World Medical Association (WMA), which represents 109 national medical associations and 10 million physicians around the world, condemned the arrests, saying the Turkish doctors had a duty to support human rights and peace.

“We urge national medical associations around the world to advocate for the full respect of Turkey’s humanitarian and human rights obligations, including the right to health, freedom of association and expression,” the WMA said. The Royal Dutch Medical Association also joined WMA's call.

Other medical associations around the world joined the call on Thursday.

Physicians for Human Rights, the Standing Committee of European Doctors, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims and European Forum of Medical Associations signed a joint letter condemning the persecution of medical professionals in Turkey.

“The Turkish Medical Association has done nothing other than express its opinion in support of human rights and peace. This is not a criminal offence,” the medical organisations said.

The organisations urged Turkish authorities to:

  • Release immediately the leaders of the Turkish Medical Association;
  • Put an immediate end to all acts of harassment and intimidation, including at the judicial level, against the Turkish Medical Association;
  • Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and instruments ratified by Turkey.