Nobel Laureates Condemn Turkish Government’s Treatment of Protesters and Doctors

New York City, July 18 – Several world-renown scientists have expressed their concerns over the excessive use of tear gas and police force in the recent protests in Turkey. In a correspondence to be published in Science on July 19, twenty-five scientists, including four Nobel laureates, urged the Turkish government to treat peaceful protesters according to international law. On Thursday, July 18, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the Transnational Work Group on Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey (GIT – North America) and the primary authors of the Science article will hold a press conference at the New School University in New York City in order to draw attention to ongoing human rights violations in Turkey.

Nobel laureates Robert F. Curl (in Chemistry, 1996), Paul Greengard (in Physiology or Medicine, 2000), Roald Hoffmann (in Chemistry, 1981) and Richard R. Schrock (in Chemistry, 2005) joined numerous other noted scientists to address the ongoing events in Turkey from a scientific perspective. They document how the Turkish government’s excessive and unlawful use of force against protesters and medical professionals has led to human casualties and injuries of unprecedented proportions. Such a correspondence among science and medical professionals is viewed as an indicator of the severity of human rights violations and the urgency to take action.

Triggered by the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters on May 31, approximately 2.5 million people joined demonstrations in 79 out of 81 cities of Turkey according to government estimates. The Turkish government has responded to the mass protests with increasing use of tear gas and police violence, resulting in more injuries and casualties. According to latest data released by the Turkish Medical Association on July 15, 8163 people have so far been injured during these protests; of these 63 are severely wounded and three are in critical condition. 106 individuals have suffered head traumas. Eleven people have lost an eye and five have been killed.

Hospitals and makeshift infirmaries have also been targeted by the police with tear gas fired into confined spaces where the injured were being treated’. Medical supplies have been confiscated by the police and many health-care professionals have been taken into custody. The government has also put the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) under extensive pressure, especially through the arrest of the Secretary General of TTB-Istanbul, to conceal data regarding injuries and deaths during protests. Nevertheless, the TTB has remained the only reliable source concerning this information. In a clear breach of patient confidentiality, the Ministry of Health went as far as to demand patient information from medical facilities, including the names and health conditions of patients injured during the protests, and the identity of the healthcare workers who volunteered for these services. These unconstitutional demands by the government have prevented thousands of injured protesters from seeking much-needed medical attention due to the fear of blacklisting by the Erdogan administration.

The Turkish Medical Association has conducted a web-based survey with 11,115 participants to get a better understanding of the complications experienced by individuals exposed to chemical agents. This investigation revealed that the majority of individuals affected were women and young people between the ages of 20-29. Seven percent of all injuries resulted from direct and short-range firing of tear gas canisters at protesters, including shots to critical regions such as the face, head and chest. Approximately 68 percent of those affected by tear gas were exposed to extremely high levels, however only five percent of all individuals exposed to these chemical agents have sought treatment.

The Ministry of Interior and the Turkish National Police have been unresponsive to requests to disclose the types and constituents of chemicals used, even though such information is vital for the effective treatment of those affected. The Chamber of Chemical Engineers in Istanbul has recently carried out a study testing various types of tear gas on mice and reported the lethal concentration and dose of these chemical agents. Given the short-range and long-term exposure of protesters to these chemical agents, it is critical that their health is monitored on a continuous basis. Since the medical implications of uncontrolled and excessive exposure to chemical agents are under-investigated and potentially lethal, there is an urgent need to stop the use of these agents.

Various non-governmental organizations have repeatedly voiced concerns over the excessive use of force by the police as well as the unconstitutional actions of the government. The World Medical Association has supported these efforts through letters addressed to the Prime Minister, condemning the use of excessive force and chemical agents against the public. On July 1, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) sent a letter to the Minister of Health to express their deep concern over the ministry’s efforts to pass legislation that would prevent medical personnel from providing emergency care to anyone in need, including demonstrators. On July 12, PHR, the World Medical Association, German Medical Association and the Standing Committee of European Doctors sent a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister calling upon him and his government to end human rights violations including the use of tear gas and unlawful acts against medical personnel. In this letter, the international community is asked to ban the sale of tear gas to Turkey and ensure that policy decisions regarding human rights protections and respect for medical neutrality are guaranteed.

In the meantime, over 4,000 academics from around the world hailing from more than 500 academic institutions in about 70 countries have signed a declaration to condemn the excessive police brutality on peaceful demonstrators and have expressed their support for the free exercise of constitutional rights. The declaration prepared by ‘International Solidarity with Gezi Boston Group: Bostonbullular’ and ‘The Transnational Work Group of Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey (GIT-NA)’, condemns the immense violence practiced by the Turkish police that resulted in casualties and thousands of injured; the improper detention of the protesters who are using their constitutional rights; the violation of human rights during arrests; censorship in the mainstream media and the denigrating and marginalizing discourse of the government. The signatories emphasize that freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience and any other differences in nondiscriminatory opinions are essential in any democratic society.

As academics, scientists and intellectuals; we once again condemn the reckless and excessive use of force and chemical agents against peaceful demonstrators and health personnel in Turkey. We demand that the government immediately cease the use of these chemical agents against peaceful protesters to avoid further health problems and deaths.


Press Conference Details

Location: The New School, Wolff Conference Room, 6 East 16th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011

Date & Time: July 18, 7pm



The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Turkish Medical Association (TTB) is the organized voice of physicians in Turkey under the constitutional guarantee. %80 (83.000) of country’s physicians are members of TTB. Main income source of TTB is membership fees and it does not get any aid from government. TTB was founded to protect and improve the public health conditions in Turkey and advocates equal, accessible and high quality health care for everyone. TTB investigates malpractice cases in order to protect patient’s rights and professional ethics. TTB protects the morals and rights of profession and members. TTB is one of the founder members of Associations of Health Profession Groups (Turkish Dental Association, Turkish Pharmacists’ Association, Turkish Veterinary Medical Association). At the international level, TTB is the member of the forum that is comprised of World Medical Association, The Association for Medical Education in Europe and World Health Organization and participates in its meetings as an active member. See more on:

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. It was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to stop human rights violations. See more on:

Transnational Work Group on Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey (GIT North America) is composed of academics from Turkey living in the United States and aims to raise awareness and offer documentation on “Academic Liberty and Freedom of Research in Turkey.” (see more on:

Harvard Square Candle Vigil Press Release

We stand in solidarity with the protestors in Turkey, who are using their rights to peaceful assembly to fight for democracy and freedom of expression. They have been subject to immense police violence. We are commemorating the lives lost, people who are disabled, injured, assaulted, ill-treated or arrested, and grieve with their family and friends.

What started on Monday, May 27, as a movement to peacefully protest the demolition of a public park and its replacement with a shopping mall and old military barracks, has turned into a mass struggle of people in Turkey for human rights, for freedom of expression, and for democracy. Throughout the past 7 weeks, millions of people have joined the movement in many cities across Turkey. The immense on-going violence practiced by the Turkish police cannot be justified in any way.

According to the report by Physicians for Human Rights, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the Turkish Medical Association, “the police have systematically used tear gas as a weapon on hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, firing tear gas canisters and capsules directly at protestors at close range and in closed spaces and other areas with no outlet for escape. Some 130,000 canisters have reportedly been used against protestors. The police have fired rubber bullets and live ammunition directly at protestors at close range, used water cannons spiked with tear gas and other chemicals, and beaten and illegally detained hundreds of protestors. As of July 2, 2013 The Turkish Medical Association collected medical information on more than 8000 injuriesdue to tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, beatings and live ammunition. 61 protestors have been seriously wounded, 104 with head trauma and 11 others have lost their eyes. There have been 5 civilian deathsand 2 still in critical conditioncaused by unnecessary and/or excessive use of force against protestors and other demonstration related injuries. As of July 10, 2013, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey had conducted approximately 200 medical evaluations of injured protestors in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol standards. The physical and psychological evidence in each case is consistent with torture and/ or ill treatment. In addition the police and other law enforcement officials have deliberately attacked clearly identifiable, independent medical personal and medical facilities with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Police have beaten and illegally detained dozens of physicians and other medical personnel for providing emergency medical care to those injured by the police.” This immense violence against the people of Turkey who are using their rights to peaceful protest is unacceptable.

In addition to this direct violence, thousands of peoplesupporting the people’s movement have been detained and blacklistedfor expressing their opinions, including those who are charged for speaking out through social media. Peaceful expression of opinions is a constitutional right in Turkey, much like in any democratic country. Among those who are blacklisted and were subject to ill treatment by the law enforcement in their detention were the members of Taksim Solidarity, formed by over 100 different NGOs and professional associations, such as the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects, Turkish Medical Association, several workers’ unions, LGBTQ communities, political parties, students’ and artists’ organizations, cutting across all class, ethnicity, gender, age and sexuality lines.

The resistance movement has created an atmosphere of open exchange and plurality in Turkey –an atmosphere, against which the increasing number of human rights violations, accompanied by a culture of fear and oppression, stands in jarring contrast. We hereby reaffirm that the freedom of thought, expression, and conscience, as well as the recognition and acceptance of difference, are essential in any democratic society. It is our duty to remind the Turkish government of its obligations under international law to respect the basic rights of the people.

We also condemn the silence, inconsistency, and bias of the mainstream media in Turkey. The people of Turkey have the right to a free press and the right to fully follow these events, in which thousands of people partake. We reject Prime Minister Erdogan’s discourse that is denigrating and marginalizing the protesters. We emphasize that this is a democratic movement. Congruent with the demands of the protestors in Turkey,

  • We demand that Gezi remain a park;
  • Continuing repression and police brutality end immediately;
  • The constitutional rights of those in custody be protected and their medical needs be met;
  • Those who were taken into custody for exercising their right to peacefully and publicly protest be immediately released;
  • Those responsible for the disproportionate use of police power and those who condoned the violence be held accountable;
  • A participatory culture of democracy be established and sustained.

We wish the people who have been subjected to violence a fast recovery. We send our condolences to the families of the deceased.


John Adams Courthouse Press Release

To The Members of the Press, Human Rights Organizations, Servants of Justice and the People of Boston,

We are students, academics, intellectuals, artists, workers, business people and citizens of Boston. We are here today to show our continued solidarity with our friends in Turkey who, as a reaction to their mass protests, have been subjected to immense police brutality and unfair arrests and detention directed by the Erdogan/AKP administration. With that, we would like to highlight the state of judiciary system in Turkey.

The unfairness and dysfunction of Turkey’s judiciary system has been well-documented by the thousands of cases in which the European Court of Human Rights has found out that Turkey violated the right to a fair trial, the right to life, the freedom of expression and such. It is saddening to see that despite the promised reforms and improvements, Turkey upholds its tradition of favoring its state against the people, and its officers against the citizens. On June 11, 2013, 51 lawyers were detained in an Istanbul courthouse for protesting the disproportionate use of police force and for demanding justice. These lawyers are not alone; many others are being prosecuted under the “Terrorism Act”, an act that never defines what terrorism is throughout its text. Thousands of students1 have thus been arbitrarily prosecuted and punished by loose “evidence” and “secret witness” statements. Majority of the journalists, some of whom have remained detained, some over 5 years, waiting for an indictment, suffer the same fate.

It is no surprise that in 2013, Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) characterizes Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for journalists”. This may help explain why most major news channels were shamefully silent during the protests or manipulating the news in accordance with the governing political party’s agenda. Ethnic and minority groups, women, LGBT community and children are also victims of abuse of the court system. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, rape and sexual assault has gone up 30% in the last 5 years. The number of murdered women has gone up from 66 to 1011 from 2002 to 2007.2 This rise is attributed to the increasing weakness of the justice system to prosecute and convict those who are responsible, as well as police taking sides with or not arresting the suspects.

It is this judiciary system that we hopelessly expect that will be fair. It is this system that we hopelessly await that will punish those responsible for the 4 dead, over 7500 injured and 9 allegedly detained people who have since been missing during the recent protests. It is this system that we hope will finally hand out some exemplary punishments to the police who have carelessly, and in some cases, intentionally killed innocent people.

Yet what we have gotten so far is an official investigation on doctors who have volunteered for treating the injured protestors. Yet what we have gotten so far is the release of the police officer who killed the 26-year-old protestor on the grounds of “self-defense.” Yet what we have gotten so far is a crackdown on social media users and leftist organizations. What we have gotten so far is a Prime Minister who said “We will not surrender our police; we have told the judiciary what’s necessary.”

It is time that this unchecked system changes. It is time that we see some accountability.

We demand that the laws that regulate police actions are reformed and enforced.

We demand that the human rights safeguards during the arrest and detention of protesters be upheld. 

We demand that lawyers, judges and prosecutors in Turkey carry out their responsibilities free of the government’s pressure. 


Boston Common Protest Press Release

To The Members of the Press, International Human Rights Organizations, and the People of Boston,

We are students, academics, intellectuals, artists, workers, business people and citizens of Boston. We are here today to show our continued solidarity with our friends in Turkey who, as a reaction to their mass protests, have been subjected to immense police brutality by the Erdogan/AKP administration.

Since Monday, May 27th, what has started as a movement to peacefully protest the demolition of a public park and its replacement with a shopping mall, turned into a mass struggle of people of Turkey. It has become the struggle for human rights, freedom of expression and a participatory democratic culture.

Throughout the past ten days, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the movement in many cities across Turkey and around the world. Turkish police have continuously subjected the protestors to immense violence including excessive use of water cannons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and beatings, causing three confirmed deaths and at least 2000 injured. Furthermore, the tear gas agents have been fired directly at people from a lethal distance. There have been thousands of people detained including people who are charged for expressing their opinions via Twitter. This ongoing disproportionate reaction and atrocious violence by the government against its own citizens cannot be justified in any way.

We are outraged by the magnitude of human rights violations and the increasing fear and oppression culture in Turkey. We are here to reaffirm that the freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience and any other differences in nondiscriminatory opinions are essential in any democratic society. We are here to remind the Turkish Government its obligations under international law to respect the basic rights – the rights that our brothers and sisters are defending with their lives in Turkey.

Even now, as these massive protests are going on, the parliament, with a majority of AKP members, is using these events as a distraction for the people and is working on passing laws that will harm the environment even further. But, we are watching!

We also condemn the inconsistency and bias of the mainstream media. While we are following the news through social media and foreign news agencies, the inattentiveness and partisanship of Turkey’s mainstream media is astonishing as well as extremely concerning. The people of Turkey have a right to a free press that is not afraid of reporting on governmental oppression.

The attempts by prime minister Erdogan and government spokespeople to marginalize the protestors and the movement as the act of a certain group or ideology is futile. This is a movement of the people of Turkey. We are calling on the international community to support the rights of the people to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in Turkey, in line with the demands of Gezi Park protestors in Turkey;


We demand an immediate end to the oppression and police brutality on the streets and elsewhere, not only in Istanbul but also in other provinces around Turkey. We demand that all those injured have prompt access to medical care.

We demand that human rights safeguards during arrest and detention be upheld and we demand that our friends all across the country, who are already detained for having protested in peace, be released immediately.

We demand those responsible for the brutality to be held accountable.

We demand the establishment and maintenance of a participatory democracy, respectful to the people’s rights and freedoms.


To our friends, brothers and sisters in Turkey: let our voice echo your struggle! In solidarity…