Turkish Medical Association demands release of medics in Şırnak

A doctor and three nurses are facing charges for treating a 10 year-old boy in the Kurdish-majority Şırnak province during the curfews of 2015 when the conflict between Turkey and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) flared up again after two and a half years of ceasefire.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) issued a statement demanding the release of the four medics, who were arrested on August 2 on terrorism charges.

The TTB said, “We are obligated to offer medical services to anybody who needs us, including during times of war and conflict. We will not accept facing trial, let alone arrest, for providing the service of healing and saving lives, which is why we exist.”

The TTB argued that as the doctor and nurses had stable places of work and could be reached at any time, it was unacceptable to tear them away from their patients.

“The court interrogation shows the charge to be allegedly treating a 10 year-old boy in 2015, as the curfews continued, when it was near impossible to access medical services,” said the TTB.

One of the Kurdish movement’s strongholds, Şırnak’s Cizre district remained under a strict curfew for 79 days from December 2015 to March 2016 as Turkey’s security forces clashed with PKK members and locals allegedly connected to the PKK in the city’s streets.

According to a report by Turkish news site Bianet, at least 183 civilians lost their lives in the district during this time, several because they had no access to their regular treatments and others because their wounds were not tended to.

“Our professional ethics require us to try all courses of action to heal anybody who needs our expertise, regardless of their identity or loyalties. Whatever their crime may be, our duty is to defend the right of persons to receive treatment,” said the TTB.

Similar arrests were made during the anti-government Gezi Protests in 2013, after which the courts ruled that health workers cannot under any circumstances be punished for administering treatment and healing, said the statement.