Science: Turkey must end violent response to protests

Edited by Jennifer Sills

THE TURKISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (TTB) REPORTED THAT 8121 PEOPLE WERE OFFICIALLY admitted to hospitals resulting from police violence between 31 May and 26 June (1). This number includes 5 deaths, 61 life-threatening injuries, 104 head traumas, and 11 ophthalmic injuries, one of which led to loss of an eye due to shots of tear gas canisters from short range(1). Turkish police have used excessive amounts of tear gas (lachrymatory agents) in public (2) and con- fined spaces such as hospitals or infirmaries, accord- ing to international media reports and the TTB (1–4). Such use of asphyxiating gases in confined spaces is not only extremely dangerous for public health (5–8), but also strictly limited by interna- tional agreements, such as the Geneva Protocol (9), to which Turkey is a signatory. Security forces have used 130,000 tear-gas cartridges in 20 days, and Turkey is planning to buy 100,000 new cartridges (10). Doctors and nurses treating patients affected by tear gas and other police brutality, as well as the Istanbul Medical Chamber General Secretary, have been apprehended by police (11, 12), a clear viola- tion of customary international and human rights law (13). More than 4000 academics around the world have already signed a petition to protest the police brutality (14). We call upon the Turkish government to obey international law in the treatment of protesters and those providing medical treatment to them, and to start a good-faith dialogue with the protest movement.

EMRAH ALTINDIS,1* M. ALI ALPAR,2 EMRE AKSAY,3 JONATHAN BECKWITH,1 CHRISTIAN BÖKEL,4 ROBERT F. CURL,5 ROBERT B. DARNELL,6 STEPHEN J. ELLEDGE,7 BURAK ERMAN,8 JENS FRAHM,9 STEPHEN P. GOFF,10 PAUL GREENGARD,6 ROALD HOFFMANN,11 BAYAZIT ILHAN,12 JAN KASLIN,13 STEVEN M. LIPKIN,3 CORNELIA POULOPOULOU,14 EREZ RAZ,15 MARK A. RUBIN,3 MEHMET SALTURK,16 RICHARD R. SCHROCK,17 ALAIN TRAUTMANN,18 DERYA UNUTMAZ,19 HAREL WEINSTEIN,3 CAGHAN KIZIL4* 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. 2The Science Academy (Bilim Akademisi), Istanbul, Turkey. 3Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY 10065, USA. 4Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, Technische Universität, 01307, Dresden, Germany. 5Rice University, Houston, TX 77251, USA. 6The Rockefeller University and The New York Genome Center, New York, NY 10065, USA. 7Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA. 8Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey. 9Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, 37077, Göttingen, Germany. 10Columbia University, NY 10027, USA. 11Cornell University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Ithaca, NY, 14853, USA. 12Turkish Medical Association (TTB), Ankara, Turkey. 13Monash University, Victoria, 3800, Australia. 14University of Athens, Athens, 10679, Greece. 15University of Münster, 48149, Münster, Germany. 16University of Cologne, Cologne, 50923, Germany. 17Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. 18Centre National de la Recherche

Scientifique (CNRS), 75794, Paris, France. 19New York University, New York, NY 10012, USA. *Corresponding authors. E-mail: (E.A.); (C.K.)


1. TTB Report (
2. Gas Burns—Taksim Gezi Parki 12.06.2013 (
3. A. O. Aktan, Br. Med. J. 346, f3801 (2013).
4. Police Throwing Tear Gas into German Hospital İstanbul 16.06.13 2.57am #occupygezi ( watch?v=AL06wWNqTY4).
5. H. Hu, D. Christiani, Lancet 339, 1535 (1992).
6. B. F. Bessac, S.-E. Jordt, Proc. Am. Thorac. Soc. 7, 269 (2010).
7. B. C. Howard, “The surprising history and science of tear gas,” National Geographic Daily News (12 June 2013); news/2013/06/130612-tear-gas-history-science-turkey- protests/.
8. H. G. Atkinson, “Under the gun: Ongoing assaults on Bahrain’s health system,” Physicians for Human Rights (May, 2012); reports/under-the-gun-ongoing-assaults-on-bahrains- health-system.html.
9. United Nations Geneva Protocol (1925); eng/war-and-law/treaties-customary-law/geneva- conventions/index.jsp.
10. “Turkishpolicetobuy100,000gasbombcartridges,”Hur- riyet Daily News (19 June 2013); www.hurriyetdai lynews. com/turkish-police-to-buy-100000-gas-bomb-cartridges-. aspx?PageID=238&NID=49075&NewsCatID=341.
11. Lancet 381, 2067 (2013). 12. E. Güne, “Police search houses of Gezi protests’ starter group members,” Hurriyet Daily News (9 July 2013); gezi-protests-starter-group-members.aspx?pageID=238 &nID=50349&NewsCatID=339.
13. Convention(IV)RelativetotheProtectionofCivilianPer- sons in Time of War (Geneva, 1949); ihl/ihl.nsf/Treaty.xsp?documentId=AE2D398352C5B028C 12563CD002D6B5C&action=openDocument.
14. AcademicsforGezi:Englishpetition,withmorethan2200sig- natures at the time of publication ( our-call/) and Turkish petition, with more than 1800 signatures at the time of publication (

19 July 2013