The state of justice in Turkey: A citizen who cannot practice medicine despite the Constitution
by Esra Ciftci
Mehmet Resit Arslan, imprisoned in the early 1990s while studying at the Istanbul Medical Faculty, has faced significant challenges. Arslan has shown incredible resilience despite enduring various forms of torture and being sentenced to life imprisonment after nearly ten years of rigorous trials. Even when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that his trial was unfair, his 30-year sentence was upheld.
During his imprisonment, Arslan obtained degrees from eight universities and spent most of that time in solitary confinement. Upon his release in 2022, he completed his final year of medical internship, graduated in March 2023, and joined the Istanbul Chamber of Physicians.
However, his journey was not without obstacles. Despite his qualifications and dedication, Arslan was barred from public service, making him ineligible for most medical positions. He turned to the legal system for redress and shared his story with Arti Gercek to shed light on his challenges.
Mehmet Resit Arslan's background
Born in Diyarbakır in 1966, Arslan's educational journey took him to Istanbul's prestigious Cerrahpasa Faculty of Medicine. Active in the student movement, his activism led to his detention and eventual arrest. During his imprisonment, tragedy struck his family; his recently graduated brother was mysteriously murdered, his father died of a stroke, and his mother and several relatives died.
Despite the adversity, Arslan's resilience shone through as he continued his education at eight additional universities while in prison. Upon his release, he completed his pending internships and embraced the medical profession.
Challenges of practicing medicine
Arslan's past conviction disqualified him from military service, a prerequisite for practicing medicine in Turkey. To circumvent this, he sought an exemption, arguing that his imprisonment was politically motivated and that his ban from public service should not hinder his medical career.
Although the Ministry of Health acknowledged his petition, it continued to pose challenges. Arslan was in a bureaucratic maze, abruptly canceling his diploma registration without proper notice.
The Constitutional Court had previously ruled that some practices in this context were unconstitutional. However, Arslan's situation reflected persistent gaps in the application of justice.
For Arslan, these obstacles were not mere obstacles but profound violations of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, safety, non-discrimination, and a fair trial. He believes that the cost of upholding democratic values is high, as evidenced by his experiences and many others in Turkey.
Undeterred, Arslan remains committed to his legal fight, willing to exhaust all domestic remedies and even appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. Through it all, his goal remains clear: to document these events and ensure that justice is finally served, no matter how delayed.