Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, a stauch ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has targeted the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and said that the organization should be closed down.
“It seems that this formation of betrayal named Turkish Medical Association is going to put up black ribbons in all health institutions for the purpose of drawing attention to the supposedly increasing [COVID-19] cases, our people and healthcare staff who died! This attempt is a toxic and despicable plot. What will happen when black ribbons are put on? What will they say to our people who are getting COVID-19 treatment?” Bahçeli wrote in a series of tweets on Sept. 16.
“The Turkish Medical Association is as dangerous as coronavirus and is spreading threats. Moreover, their demonstration of ‘You are unable to manage, we are dying, are exhausted’ against the government is a treacherous attempt,” Bahçeli said.
“This is my call: The Turkish Medical Association, in this sensitive period, is inciting unfounded casts and doubts about human and community health. Therefore, the Turkish Medical Association should be closed down immediately and without any delay. A legal process should be initiated against their executives,” he further said.
Following Bahçeli’s remarks, the TTB Central Council members held a meeting and announced that they would hold a press statement on Sept. 17. “There is an enormous reaction [against Bahçeli’s remarks] among the doctors,” TTB head Sinan Adıyaman said.
Bahçeli targeted the TTB after the organization announced on Sept. 14 that they are to hold various demonstrations throughout this week to protest the government’s COVID-19 “normalization plan” amid the increasing number of infections. The TTB said that healthcare staff are “exhausted” and the government is unable to “manage” the pandemic.
The TTB called on its members to participate in these demonstrations which include wearing black ribbon, holding social media campaigns, putting up posters outside hospitals, holding a one-person march and observing a minute’s silence.
Reaction pours in after Bahçeli’s call
Meanwhile, soon after Bahçeli’s remarks, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu threw his support behind the TTB, saying that Turkey “owes a debt of gratitude” to the organization.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to all healthcare staff who are the front-line of the fight against COVID-19 pandemic, are working day and night and long to see their beloved ones, as well as the Turkish Medical Association which defends their rights on every occasion. So glad we have you!” Kılıçdaroğlu wrote on his Twitter account.
Messages of support similarly poured in from several social media users for the TTB, deeming Bahçeli’s remarks as an attack against the organization. A campaign with the hashtag of “#İyikiTTBvar” (which translates as “So glad we have TTB”) went viral in a short period of time on Twitter.
The Turkish trade union confederation KESK shared the relevant hashtag with the following message: “An attack on the TTB is an attack on the public health! We stand by the Turkish Medical Association, which is fighting for labor, democracy and public health, in the face of attacks against basic rights and freedoms, especially freedom of thought and expression!”
“So glad we have TTB, which gives a hundred and ten percent,” wrote the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB).
Novelist Ahmet Ümit wrote, “The real heroes of the pandemic period is doctors. #iyikiTTBvar,” while renowned doctor Prof. Dr. Kayıhan Pala said, “The Turkish Medical Association is putting a lot of effort for good doctorship and health rights.”
The TTB similarly shared a message on its Twitter account, writing: “#İyikiTTBvar But more importantly, so glad that there are millions who know the importance of good doctorship values, the public’s right to health and professional ethics solidarity.”
Here are some of the tweets shared in support of the TTB: