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Ethics briefing
  1. Sophie Brannan,
  2. Ruth Campbell,
  3. Martin Davies,
  4. Veronica English,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian C Sheather
  1. Medical Ethics and Human Rights, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Davies, Medical Ethics and Human Rights, British Medical Association, London, UK; mdavies{at}

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Erdoğan intensifies assault on Turkish civil society

Deeply worrying reports from the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) suggest that the Turkish President Recep Erdoğan is hardening his attack on civil society in Turkey, using the legitimate activities of the TTB as the flimsiest of pretexts. In January 2018, the TTB issued a short statement raising concerns about the impact on public health of Turkey’s military operation in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Syria. It denounced the operation saying ‘No to war, peace immediately’. In response to the Association’s press release, the Turkish president publicly accused the 83 000 strong TTB of being terrorist sympathisers. ‘This institution has nothing to do with Turkishness and nothing about them is worthy of the notion of Turkishness’, he said.1

Eleven of its senior doctors, including the Association’s chairman, were later detained following an order from a Turkish prosecutor. President Erdoğan made it clear that Turkish authorities would prosecute anyone criticising the Syrian incursion.

Following international condemnation, including by the World Medical Association and the British Medical Association, the doctors were released on probation. Subsequently, however, we understand that the Turkish Health Minister, Ahmet Demirican, has filed a lawsuit against the TTB. He is quoted as saying the TTB ‘had no right’ to issue their statement in January and that the medics would face judicial proceedings. In a further, deeply worrying development, we understand that President Erdoğan is seeking to pass sweeping laws that will dismantle all independent national professional associations in Turkey, prohibit independent associations from using the word ‘Turkey’ or ‘Turkish’ in their titles and remove obligations for any professional to be a member of a relevant professional association.

Details of the legislation have not been released, but the state-run Anadolu news agency said membership of the TTB would no longer be a requirement to practise medicine privately. Similarly, membership of …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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