A Turkish court that recently ordered the disbarment of the elected Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) did not allow any of the council members to present their cases during the trial, the TTB said in an open letter to physicians issued on Wednesday.
A court dismissed Turkey’s top forensic expert and TTB President Şebnem Korur Fincancı and other central council members on 30 November, citing actions against the founding purpose of the association as the basis for the dismissal. The ruling comes following a separate case against Fincancı for calling for an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons by Turkish forces against Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq.
The association said the court had not addressed the reasons for the charges or provided any concrete evidence, and that the ‘unacceptable’ decision not only targeted the association but also sought to undermine democratic organisations in the country.
The letter reflected the World Medical Association’s definition of the medical profession as a commitment to the welfare of patients, high ethical standards, specific knowledge and skills, and a high degree of independence. In a defiant tone, the TTB declared its commitment to defending organisational autonomy, the values of the medical profession and the right to speak freely.
The TTB recalled that, despite the pressure to remain silent, it had been a vocal critic of the government’s health policies, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and accused the government of trying to silence its criticism of health policies that, in its view, led to unnecessary deaths during the pandemic.
The association also denounced the normalisation of violence against health workers, harsh working conditions in private hospitals and clinics, and the opening of low-quality medical schools focused on cheap labour.
Citing the commitment of doctors during the February earthquakes, the TTB stressed the importance of solidarity and the need to resist attempts to undermine the principles of science, ethics and social responsibility in medicine.
“Today, society and doctors are at a crossroads between professional autonomy and submission to the interests of those in power, between merit and injustice, between science and bigotry, between a democratic society and despotism,” the TTB said.
The association concluded the letter by thanking for the continued support, solidarity and belief in their cause, and sent a clear message to those who seek to silence them: “You will once again succumb to our hope, our commitment and our solidarity.”