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The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) harshly criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over statements he made regarding chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı, which the foundation says are threatening and amount to a criminal action. 

Korur Fincancı, a physician and academic, was also recently selected as the central council chairwoman of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the center of public controversy for repeatedly criticizing the government’s underreporting of daily coronavirus figures and management of the pandemic.

“Can you imagine, they took someone from a terror organization and put them at the head of the TTB. This is an incident that virtually amounts to terror organizations taking over civil society organizations,” Erdoğan said on Oct. 14, directly referencing Korur Fincancı and the TİHV. 

President Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) frequently target and brand civil society organizations that are critical of the government’s human rights abuses as terrorist organizations, without providing any concrete proof for these allegations. Many activists, politicians journalists remain behind bars in Turkey for these reasons. 

“The reason for the discomfort here is very clear to us: They don’t want anyone to check the actions of the government or to criticize its mistakes. However, in a democratic society, checking and criticizing political decision makers is a citizen’s duty,” said the TİHV in a statement responding to Erdoğan’s remarks. 

“When it comes to our dear chairwoman Şebnem Korur Fincancı, she has been the head of our foundation for many years as she is a true defender of rights, who internalizes the principle of human rights advocacy, including independence and non-violence. Her scientific knowledge and expertise are recognized and respected worldwide not just in the field of medicine, but also in the field of human rights.”