Turkish forces arrest Syrian doctor in bid to 'pressure son to surrender'

Turkish forces arrest Syrian doctor in bid to 'pressure son to surrender'
Syrian national Dr Ghada Al-Hamdoun was detained by Turkish security forces from her home on Saturday night, her son announced on Facebook.
3 min read
15 August, 2022
Turkish forces detained the doctor amid growing pressure on Syrian refugees [Getty]

Turkish police arrested a Syrian doctor on Saturday, in what activists say is a bid to apply pressure on her son.

Security forces detained Dr Ghada Al-Hamdoun from her home in Gaziantep on Saturday night, her son, lawyer Salah Al-Din Dabbagh said in a Facebook post announcing the arrest.

Dabbagh suggested the move is an attempt to force him to surrender to the state to face allegations made by Turkish opposition parties about alleged criticism of Turkey that have circulated across local media.

Dabbagh said he was surprised by the torrent of false accusations and allegations against him, which accused him of undermining the prestige of the state due to posts on social media.

"The case has gotten out of its legal context and turned into a political one," he said in the Facebook post, noting he would surrender himself to authorities to save his mother.

The lawyer also called on Syrians around the country to support both him and his mother by launching a campaign to advocate for their release.

Lawyer Taha Al-Ghazi said Turkish police took Dr. Hamdoun to a deportation centre for Syrian refugees, describing the move and arbitrary arrest as a violation of their human rights.

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He described the matter as "a piece of the domino platform in the field of violations that Syrian refugees have been subjected to by some elements of the Turkish security and the government sector during the past years".

Similar sentiments were shared by the director of the Free Lawyers Association, Ghazwan Kronfol, who said the arrest of Dr. Hamdoun without charge is a clear abuse of the law and its most basic principles.

Since 2019, Turkey has forced Syrian refugees to return to Syria. Refugees have reported being coerced into signing papers in Turkish, ostensibly meant to indicate that their returns were voluntary.

Syrian refugees have become a domestic hot topic in Turkey in recent years, with the the country's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP) saying it would deport Syrians en-masse if elected. Hate speech and violence against Syrians in Turkey have also been on the rise, particularly after the country's economic downturn last year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to create a "safe zone" in northern Syria to house the refugees currently living in Turkey. Human rights monitors have warned that conditions in Syria - even in the Turkish or Kurdish-controlled north - are not safe for refugee returns.

Returnees have faced violence and arbitrary arrest at the hands of local authorities. The incident on Saturday follows growing signs that Turkey and the Syrian regime may restore ties, including a brief meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in Belgrade.

He has also said he would support any Syrian regime military operations against Kurdish militias in the north, after a decade-long boycott of Assad by Ankara.

"We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be no lasting peace, we always say this," the Turkish FM told diplomats on Thursday.

Syrians have held protests against any normalisation with the regime.

More than 500,000 people have been killed in Syria, largely at the hands of the regime and its ally Russia, since the war began in 2011. At least 11 million more have been displaced from their homes.