Turkey’s War on Demonstrators Includes War on Its own Doctors

On July 11, our Human Rights in Turkey blog reported on last week’s use of excessive force by the police in Istanbul.  The next day, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and three other leading international medical groups sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for an end to the use of tear gas and actions by security personnel that have thus far led to at least four civilian deaths and 8,000 injuries due to tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, beatings, and live ammunition. Fifty-nine protestors have been seriously wounded, 11 others lost their eyes.

Since protests started in late May, the PHR press release accompanying their letter to the Prime Minister police states that at least 130,000 canisters tear gas “on a massive scale, often firing them at close range, in confined spaces, and in spaces where there exists no outlet for escape”. Also, according to the PHR,

law enforcement officials have deliberately attacked medical personnel and facilities, and beaten and illegally detained dozens of medical personnel for providing emergency medical care to the injured. A bill seeking to criminalize the provision of emergency medical care to not only the demonstrators, but anyone in need, remains on the agenda in Turkey’s parliament.

Equally worrying, a circular from the Ministry of Health has required medical personnel providing emergency care for demonstrators to report the names of injured demonstrators and those doctors who are assisting them in Gezi Park and other places where protests are continuing to occur throughout Turkey.

The government’s crack down on its own medical personnel not only violates international human rights norms; the Turkish Penal Code makes it a crime for medical personnel to neglect their obligation to provide emergency medical care.

We can only hope that the Turkish government will come to its senses and stop its war against its own citizens.

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