Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı was in Germany when an Ankara court ordered to forcibly bring her to testify in an investigation. She returned to Turkey on her own volition, and was detained shortly after entering the country on Wednesday. On Thursday, she was formally charged.
“I’m not saying these things because I’m in Germany,” the physician and forensic medicine expert told Kronos News ahead of her return. “If I was asked the same thing in Turkey, I would still give my assessment and share with all.”
Şebnem Korur Fincancı neden gözaltında? pic.twitter.com/o7iKwWurGS
— Politik Özne (@mervanozdemirr) October 26, 2022
“As a physician, I must say this: We as doctors have responsibilities regarding public health, but also as citizens we have the duty to inspect states. Citizens must be able to discuss whether a given organisation is doing good, or is engaged in any violations. Citizens and democratic mass organisations must be able to have discussions, so the state organisation can feel it is being checked for its compliance with life and humanity, and is able to act accordingly.”
International organisations and conventions exist “because states have an inclination to commit crimes”, Fincancı said. “This is why human rights as a concept exists.”
Fincancı’s arrest came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday said she had been “speaking in the language of terrorist organisations” and slandering the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and Turkey’s cross-border operations into Iraq.
“There is a perception that I spoke against the TSK. However, the one that did not give permission for an investigation was the Kurdish administration (in Northern Iraq). I hold all parties responsible,” Fincancı said.
The chairwoman was asked during a live broadcast last week to assess a video released by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) armed wing, the HPG, where a man was seen in convulsions. Fincancı said the man in the video showed symptoms consistent with some banned chemicals, and that there were grounds for a proper investigation.
She further clarified her remarks, saying, “There has been reporting as if I actually said chemicals have been used. I said no such thing … I said it should be investigated. Speaking on live television, I was saying it is impossible to say from images.”
But,“it is not a crime to want the allegations to be investigated”, the expert doctor insisted.
Kurds in Turkey and Europe have been calling on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations, however, the OPCW requires member states to request an investigation. Under current conditions, the central government in Iraq would have the authority to request such an investigation.
“There are containers that could facilitate gas manufacturing cited in the report,” Fincancı said, referring to a report prepared by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
Jan Van Aken from the IPPNW has spoken in a similar vein to Fincancı, telling Medya News last week that while there was not enough evidence to prove chemical use, the available information warranted a thorough investigation.
“We also do not know who owned those containers there. As such, all I said was, conduct an effective investigation so those responsible can face the consequences. But they think I spoke about them. That begs the question: Are they so touchy because they are guilty? I would of course leave that to the public to decide.”
In police custody on Wednesday, Fincancı passed a handwritten note to the TTB through her lawyers. In the note she said,
I am sorry you are facing this surreal situation. However, I know we can get through this with solidarity.
I was going to speak to you about scientific opinion and sourcing, but we didn’t get the opportunity. After this process is over, let’s take a meeting on evidencing.
I am certain you are highly busy, and I have unfortunately added to it. But we will overcome this smear campaign and continue our fight together.
For the days we will build a humane healthcare system together, in solidarity,
📌Gözaltına alınan TTB Başkanı Şebnem Korur Fincancı avukatları aracılığıyla mesaj yolladı. pic.twitter.com/HlH19TlM6D
— Yeni Demokrasi (@YDemokrasi11) October 26, 2022