Turkey: Doctors Strike After Colleagues Arrested

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Photo by Lonna Lisa Williams

“Union protesters march peacefully through downtown Izmit, near Istanbul”

June 17, 2013 Istanbul - Today in Turkey, doctors walked off the job to protest the police violence against protesters and the arrest of doctors in Istanbul.

Turkish doctors are wearing black, and they are not found in hospitals or clinics (except a few who remain in emergency rooms). They are striking to show their solidarity with fellow doctors who were arrested in Istanbul on Saturday, June 15 after police drove protesters from Gezi Park, using water canons and pepper spray.

“The doctors were only trying to help the protesters by giving them emergency medical aid in the clinic set up inside the Divan Hotel,” one witness told me. “The police marched right into the five-star hotel and arrested these doctors dressed in white lab coats. They were led off with their hand behind them, handcuffed.”

The World Health Organization and Amnesty International immediately issued statements condemning this act, but Istanbul’s governor denied that any actual doctors were arrested, calling the medical personnel seen being manhandled by police, “criminals.”

Over 350 people have been arrested for protesting in Istanbul this weekend. Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler threatened that public servants who participated in “illegal strikes” would “bear the consequences.” He also mentioned that he had not yet called in the military to stop Taksim protests (a plan that may be used soon).

Amnesty International, which has an office near Taksim, has opened its doors as a refuge for victims of police brutality. In fact, they even offer a health clinic and a staff of volunteer doctors.

“The Turkish authorities must allow peaceful protest to proceed, urgently revise police tactics and investigate—and hold accountable—those responsible for the abuses we are seeing,” said Amnesty International spokesman John Dalhusien.

Amnesty International is particularly alarmed at the dangerous firing of tear gas canisters directly at protesters, which could cause death from a head injury or blindness. They also report that the police deliberately fire tear gas into enclosed areas like hotels and apartments. Protesters who were arrested were not offered necessary medical care.

The life of a Turkish doctor can be difficult. Sometimes patients threaten them, and if a patient dies, a family member may beat up or even kill the attending doctor. But problems with Turkish police is a new situation even for Turkish doctors, and that is why they are striking today. In Izmit, I watched them walk through city center as bystanders greeted them and people banged pots and pans, in support, from their balconies.

Bystanders greeted Izmit protesters to show their support.  One banner reads  Everywhere is Taksim.

Bystanders greeted Izmit protesters to show their support. One banner reads “Everywhere is Taksim.”

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There is a report that Turkish Police used a high concentration of liquefied tear gas in the water cannon trucks that they used on protesters.

Here is a summary of a statement released by the Turkish Doctor’s Union:

Turkish Doctors Union (TTB) released a statement, saying that at least 4 people lost their lives and 7,822 protestors were injured in Gezi Park demonstration in 13 cities across Turkey.

The union said the statement included all police violence-related injuries until June 17 at 6 pm local time.

TTB said public hospitals, private hospitals and volunteer infirmaries that station in approximate with hot clash zones admitted 7,882 patients.

“The majority of injuries were due to pepper gas-related burnt and respiratory complications; injuries related to canister hits, plastic bullets and muscle-skeleton system traumas (soft tissues injuries, cuts, burns, broken bones); head traumas; eyesight problems extending to vision loses due to use of plastic bullets; and internal organ injuries.

According to the statement 4 people lost their lives: Mehmet Ayvalıtaş (Istanbul), Abdullah Cömert (Antakya), Mustafa Sarı (polis officer, Adana), Ethem Sarısülük (Ankara).

The statement cited 59 to be in serious condition. The city distribution of those with life-threatening condition is as follows: Istanbul (4), Ankara (1), Eskişehir (1). 100 people suffered from head trauma and 11 lost eyesight, and 1 lost spleen, the statement said.

Turkish Doctors Union released the distribution of casualties according to cities as follows:

Istanbul: 4,477 injured. 21 gravely wounded. 1 dead. 4 still in critical condition. 6 lost eyesight. 6 suffered head trauma.

Ankara: 1,350 injured. 21 gravely wounded. 7 head traumas. 1 dead. 4 lost eyesight.

Izmir: 800 injured with 2 in critical condition.

Antakya: 161 injured with 3 in critical condition. 1 dead.

Adana: 162 injured with 6 in serious condition. 1 dead. 5 head traumas.

Eskişehir: 300 injured with 3 in serious condition. 2 still ICU.

Muğla: 50 injured with 1 serious condition.

Mersin: 17 injured with 1 in serious condition.

Bursa: 1 head trauma, 2 injured.

Balıkesir: 155 injured.

Kocaeli: 10 injured.

Antalya: 150 injured including 1 in serious condition.

Rize: 8 injured. (AS/BM)