Ali Duran Topuz

Ali Duran Topuz

Health is dead, down with the doctors! Justice is dead, down with the lawyers!

Violence against doctors and attorneys in Turkey, stems from government policies and mindset

Attacks against physicians are predicated on the transformation of the understanding of health, attacks against lawyers are predicated on the transformation of the understanding of politics, justice and violence. The government that glorifies lawless violence calls for individual violence.

In Konya, a hospital security guard shot a doctor working at the same hospital and then committed suicide. In Istanbul, a person killed a lawyer who was handling a compensation case filed by a woman he had previously injured, and then killed the woman who filed the lawsuit.Violence against physicians has become almost systemic. Violence against lawyers may not be as prevalent, but it is by no means uncommon. The fact that one of the people killed in the second case was a woman is not independent of the spiral of violence against women. The epidemic prevalence of violence against physicians is not just an ordinary consequence of the increasing spread of violence in society. Violence against the lawyer and the woman seeking to assert her rights, on the other hand, is an "exemplary case" that reveals the relationship between the prevalence of violence and the prevailing legal understanding and conception of justice.


Let's look first at violence against physicians: Like violence against women, we hear about an attack on physicians almost every day. Violence against women is so widespread that we can say it is universal and has a number of causes as almost anthropological that parallel the history of human existence. On the other hand, the fact that attacks on physicians have become so widespread is rather related to certain events in recent history:

The reason for these attacks is the view of the health care system by those in power; it is their view of health care workers, the regulations concerning the health care system and the basis of the patient-physician relationship. To be more concrete, the major regulations concerning the health system, the health sector, and health care workers over the past 20 years are the main source of the "systematic attacks on physicians."

But what has changed in this sector? To summarize: the "public the "public service" character of health services has been abolished; in a word, health has been commercialized. The patient has been turned into a kind of customer, preventive health services have been completely relegated to the background, and the physician has been turned into a characterless agent of a system based on customer satisfaction and corporate profitability. The competitive pressure for profit has led to a gradual degradation of health services, both in terms of time and physical facilities. For these reasons, issues of health and illness, which are fundamentally a matter of life and death, have led to the construction of huge hospitals that are indicators of profitability, but within these spaces, the patient-doctor relationship and the roles and customs established in this relationship until 2002 have changed radically. While the buildings and profits were growing by leaps and bounds, problems were piling up like an avalanche, but apart from the patients and the doctors, who are in direct contact at every moment, there was no institution or figure that directly felt or dealt with these problems. From the patient's point of view, there is no one else to blame but the physician, with whom he or she is in direct contact, as the immediate source of the problems that the system has amplified.


Another important reason is certainly that the processes of commercialization and commodification were accompanied by the liquidation, degeneration or marginalization of professional organizations. When consumer institutions and organizations  were subject to liquidation or regression instead of development, as in the case of professional organizations, there was no one or institution left other than the physician against whom the patient could argue, oppose or confront.

O course, a further element that also emanates from the authorities must be added to all this: the exclusion, devaluation and categorical and ideological singling out of teachers, which began after the 12 September [1980 coup d'état]; this has been carried out against all professional groups in the last 20 years, and it has been accentuated in the case of physicians in recent years.

All of this may help us understand where violence originates from and who it is directed at, but it does not explain one thing: why do we witness violence so easily and so often?


The second murder may be useful in answering this question: instead of defending his case in court, the murderer seeks to get results by threatening the plaintiff and his lawyer, and at one point decides to kill them both. He attempts to get results through personal violence. Attacks on lawyers, although not as frequent as attacks on physicians, are also a result of the transformation of the judicial system.

The justice system is affected differently (and more so) than health, not only by transformations within it, but also by transformations in the general conception of governance.. The placement of violence in all sorts of politically determined political and social processes dramatically affects each individual's understanding of justice and attitudes toward violence.

A government that deregulates violence for its own sake, a government that places unregulated violence at the forefront of its procedures and actions, opens the door for any individual to use unlawful violence. When this deregulation prevails, the very institutions and individuals created to suppress or prevent violence can themselves become sources of violence; it was not a coincidence that the physician in Konya was killed by a guard working at the same hospital. The murder in Konya shows us that violence against doctors is not due to "lack of security measures," but that these same security measures can also become a source of violence. When the state protects, safeguards, and even encourages violence through its own officials who "have a gun in their waistband," it is not surprising that the security guard, who already has a gun in his waistband, is tempted to use it.


Especially since the Gezi protests, those in power in Turkey have completely redefined the relationship between violence and the law in a way that constitutes the fundamental characteristic of the new regime they intend to establish; this redefinition has made individual violence a "right" for both public officials and, most dangerously, for individual citizens in many circumstances.

Moreover, in all cultural spheres that shape people's moral and mental worlds, the proliferation of works and products that glorify both organized state violence and all forms of irregular violence, is both a part of and a direct product of this redefinition, both for the state and its officials, and for individuals. All television channels close to the government, including state television, function as centers of praising and suggesting violence with their shows and broadcasts. What else can this glorification of unlawful, unjust and lawless violence in the political, social and cultural spheres lead to but for violence to become a tool to which individuals can resort without any sense of restraint? Add to this the historical ideological traditions of the unlawful/unregulated functioning of violence, and it is not necessary to be a clairvoyant to predict that the violence we are witnessing will only increase.

Indeed, recently, on the anniversary of the Madimak massacre on July 2, we witnessed "protests" by ultra-nationalists against those commemorating the victims of the massacre. What the scene meant was clear: against the commemoration of those who were brutally murdered, "protests" by individuals and organizations with the potential to repeat a similar massacre were seen as a right, both from the point of view of the perpetrators of that attack and from the point of view of the state itself with its tolerance towards them.


Violence is at work everywhere. Society is built by violence, lives by violence, disintegrates by violence. The violence we are witnessing now is the outbreak of violence, which has been deregulated and put to work for the consolidation of the new regime, wherever people are confronted with it. In a country where the Interior Minister himself praises and prescribes uncontrolled violence, where everyone from the highest to the lowest levels of state praises and promotes uncontrolled violence as a way of doing business, it is unfortunately not surprising that violence, which tends to flow from the strong to the weak, spreads at this rate.

When the method of solving all of the country's problems with violence, of handling political processes with violence, is combined with the understanding of operating with a mindset of civil war, which is one of the defining characteristics of neoliberal governance, and with the prohibition of expressing individual or social objections in an institutional and organized manner, we can say that we have not yet seen the worst days. When one says “down with the doctors, down with the lawyers,” this will undoubtedly lead to “down with the citizens.”

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