Authorities Starting to Target Hospitals and Medical Personnel in Turkey

A bill passed by the Turkish parliament last week could give authorities new powers to prosecute doctors for giving unauthorized care (Photo Credit: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images).

A bill passed by the Turkish parliament last week could give authorities new powers to prosecute doctors for giving unauthorized care (Photo Credit: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images).

One of the most shocking aspects of Turkey’s violent crackdown on peaceful protest has been the willingness of authorities to target medical personnel. Since then, not only have authorities not been held responsible, but the government has moved to increase legal pressure on medical personnel.

Amnesty has played a central role in researching this abuse. In its report on the Gezi Protests, Amnesty researchers describe in detail the extent to which those caring for the injured were themselves subject to police abuse.

  • In Izmir, doctors reported that the health clinic in the building of the Izmir Medical Association was raided by police on the night of June 2. Dr. Özlem Aydın, a doctor staffing the clinic who complained to the police about the raid was reportedly hit with a truncheon, sustaining head injuries.
  • In Ankara, on the same evening, three raids were made by police on health clinics across the city. A doctor told Amnesty International: “Anyone wearing a white jacket became a target that weekend. We made a decision not to wear them.”
  • Doctors told Amnesty International that riot police fired tear gas at the window of the clinic, breaking the glass and filling the building with tear gas. Police reportedly beat people running out of the building due to the tear gas.
  • In Istanbul, tear gas was repeatedly used at the entrance of or inside makeshift health clinics preventing the treatment of injured people. Reports and video footage show police firing tear gas and pressurized water at the entrance of the makeshift health clinic at the Divan Hotel on June 15 and police removing masks from the faces of people inside and removing lotion used to treat exposure to tear gas.
  • On June 14, the Minister of Health stated that the makeshift health clinics were illegal and that medical personnel could face criminal investigation as a result for providing emergency health care there.

Soon after the bill was passed Physicians for Human Rights issued a statement condemning it and calling on President Gul not to sign it. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, and the World Medical Association (WMA) have also raised concerns about the bill.

According to a U.N. press release, “[both] Mr. Grover and the WMA have written individually to the Turkish Government expressing their grave concern about the requirements of Article 33 of the draft health bill, and called on parliamentarians to ‘scrap it.’”

The worldwide condemnation is clear. It is now up to Turkish authorities to do what is right.

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