Turkish medical leaders are arrested after protesting against Syria incursionBMJ 2018; 360 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k494 (Published 31 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k494
All rapid responses
Rapid responses are electronic comments to the editor. They enable our users to debate issues raised in articles published on bmj.com. A rapid response is first posted online. If you need the URL (web address) of an individual response, simply click on the response headline and copy the URL from the browser window. A proportion of responses will, after editing, be published online and in the print journal as letters, which are indexed in PubMed. Rapid responses are not indexed in PubMed and they are not journal articles. The BMJ reserves the right to remove responses which are being wilfully misrepresented as published articles or when it is brought to our attention that a response spreads misinformation.
From March 2022, the word limit for rapid responses will be 600 words not including references and author details. We will no longer post responses that exceed this limit.
The word limit for letters selected from posted responses remains 300 words.
The arrest of the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) on 30 January(1) is a threat to the human rights of health professionals everywhere.
On Wednesday 24 January 2018 the Central Council of the TMA released a brief public statement,(2) affirming that war is a human-made public health problem and that the medical profession has an obligation to defend life and help to build an environment of peace. The statement affirmed the importance of a just, democratic, equalitarian, free and peaceful society.
This statement was released in response to the offensive launched on 20 January by the Turkish military in northern Syria.
Two days after the statement President Erdogan denounced the "so-called Turkish Medical Association” as "terrorist-lovers". He was reported two days later as saying: "They are not intellectuals, they are a gang of unthinking slaves... They are the servants of imperialism."(3, 4)
On Tuesday 30 Jan all eleven members of the Central Council were arrested by the Turkish state. They were released on 5 February but still face trial. Health professionals world-wide have been shocked by the intimidation of these leaders of the TMA which represents over 80% doctors in Turkey. However, there are deeper implications regarding human rights, freedom of expression and the role of health professionals.
The TMA insists that problems with neighbouring countries can be resolved without armed conflicts or war. With the TMA, many Turkish citizens are concerned to avoid the inhumane results of the war but it is illegal to express these concerns. The BBC reports that hundreds have been arrested for criticising the Turkish attack in Northern Syria.(5)
The current attack on the TTB is an attack on the right and responsibility of health professionals to speak out for peace and for justice, equity and human rights.
The World Medical Association has called for national medical associations to advocate for Turkey to respect its humanitarian and human rights obligations, including the right to health.(6)
The People’s Health Movement calls on health professionals and social movements everywhere to condemn the arrest and charge of the TMA officials and to demand the dropping of all charges and full restitution. To speak for their human rights is to defend our own.
1. Dyer O. Turkish medical leaders are arrested after protesting against Syria incursion. BMJ. 2018;360.
2. Central Council Turkish Medical Association. War is a public health problem! 2018 [Accessed 3 Feb 2018]. Available from: http://www.ttb.org.tr/haber_goster.php?Guid=28de85da-00e5-11e8-a05f-429c....
3. Middle East Eye. Turkey detains top medical group members over criticism of Afrin offensive Middle East Eye2018 [Accessed 3 February 2018]. Available from: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-detains-8-doctors-over-criticis....
4. Reuters Staff. Turkey orders detention of top doctors over criticism of Syrian offensive 2018 [updated 30 January 2018; Accessed 3 Feb 2018]. Available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-turkey-security/....
5. BBC. Syria war: Turkey arrests hundreds for criticising Afrin offensive: BBC; 2018 [updated 29 January 2018; Accessed 3 Feb 2018]. Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42863531.
6. World Medical Association. Arrest of Turkish Medical Association leaders condemned by WMA: World Medical Association; 2018 [updated 30 Jan 2018; Accessed 3 Feb 2018]. Available from: https://www.wma.net/news-post/arrest-of-turkish-medical-association-lead....
Competing interests: No competing interests