PHR Calls for Release of Imprisoned Turkish Medical Professionals | Physicians for Human Rights
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Stop the Persecution of Health Workers in Turkey

On January 30, Turkey stepped up its ruthless campaign of repression of civil society by detaining 11 leaders of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA). While all members have now been released, this egregious move to silence and intimidate the TMA followed days of threats and protests against the organization and is part of a wider government crackdown on civil society and political opposition, including medical associations.

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The arrests came after the TMA issued a statement decrying war as a danger to public health. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by calling the TMA “terrorist lovers” and disparaging its anti-war stance.

Physicians for Human Rights has called on the Turkish government to halt the persecution of health workers, end all acts of harassment and intimidation against the Turkish Medical Association, and ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Take action and demand an end to the persecution of health workers.

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*This letter is being delivered to the Turkish ambassador to the United States. If you reside outside the United States, please copy the letter and send it to the Turkish ambassador in your country.

Persecution of Health Workers Must End
Dear Ambassador Kiliç,

I am alarmed by the ongoing legal harassment of members of the Turkish Medical Association (TMA) by Turkish authorities, which followed days of threats and intimidation and culminated in the arrest of 11 of the TMA’s leadership. The detained TMA members have been released from custody but remain under threat from Turkish authorities for criticizing war as a danger to public health.

The impact of war on public health has long been a concern of the medical community in numerous countries. As the internationally respected organization of Turkish medical professionals affiliated with the World Medical Association, the TMA supports the promotion of medical ethics and professionalism. Health professionals must have the freedom to call out threats to public health without fear of retribution, and efforts to silence them are unacceptable, especially when backed by the government. The Turkish government’s campaign of intimidation and harassment, including arrests and threats of physical violence against the TMA’s members, must be stopped.

I echo the condemnation of many UN experts concerning the use of terrorism charges against human rights defenders and people legitimately expressing dissent in Turkey. The latest crackdown on health professionals for their non-violent defense of human rights and the principles of their profession illustrates a pattern of assault on health care providers by Turkish authorities, including the arrest, detention, and dismissal of hundreds of doctors and other health professionals. The Turkish government’s campaign to curtail freedom of expression and to punish dissent is in gross violation of international human rights norms, including rights to freedom of expression and opinion as stated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Turkey ratified in 2003 and to which it is bound.

It is imperative that the Turkish government take all necessary actions to safeguard the rights of health professionals in accordance with international human rights law and medical ethics. I urge you to use your good offices to call on Turkish authorities to immediately:

• Cease legal actions against human rights defenders for exercising their right to freedom of expression;
• Put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against the Turkish Medical Association;
• Ensure, in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Sincerely,

[First Name] [Last Name]

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