Outcry from Turkish opposition as police detain doctors’ union

Eleven members of a Turkish medical union that protested Turkey’s military operation in northwest Syria have been detained by the anti-terror police in raids on Tuesday morning, the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reports.

The Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) released a statement on Jan. 24 entitled “War is a public health problem”, criticising Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch against Kurdish forces in Afrin, Syria. The statement earned them the wrath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who denounced the doctors two days later as “terrorist lovers”, leading to threats of violence being levelled at the union.

On Tuesday morning, Turkish anti-terrorism police raided the homes of eleven TTB members, including its president, Dr. Raşit Tükel, and other members of its central committee.

The arrests, which took place in an operation across eight Turkish cities, elicited outcry from Turkish unions and opposition politicians.

Video footage of a solidarity protest outside the TTB headquarters in Ankara shows heavily armoured riot police shoving the citizens in an attempt to break up the demonstration.

Mahmut Tanal, an Istanbul deputy for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called the arrests illegal, unconstitutional, and against the rule of law, and called on prosecutors to drop the cases.

CHP deputies Sayek Böke and Ali Şeker also denounced the arrests, as well as Ayhan Bilgen, a deputy and spokesperson for the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Aysun Gezen, the co-president of KESK, one of Turkey’s major trade union centres, also spoke out against the arrests and the state of emergency that has been in place since after the July 2016 coup attempt, criticising the ruling Justice and Development Party for using this and the military operation to continue its “oppressive regime”.