Sunday, January 1, 2012

Criminalizing Research: The Case of Onur Hamzaoğlu

Back in May 18, 2011, International Association of Health Policy issued an urgent call for supporting Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu, "who was investigating heavy metals from mining found in the breast milk and feces of infants," [...] "was sued by local mayors and faces a two- to four-year jail term for ‘threatening to incite fear and panic among the population'," as the New York Times recently reported. Here is a portion of this letter with only changes to the format (putting spaces between words):

"An international movement of solidarity is urgently needed!

A scientist, Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu, Chair of Public Health Department at Kocaeli University Faculty of Medicine is under investigation.


Just because he fulfills his duties towards the society as a human, a physician and an academician.
Prof Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu deals with serious environmental and health problems that have been encountered in Kocaeli region, for many years.

He published the results of his study, namely, The Causes of Deaths in Industry-Dense Areas: Example of Dilovası in 2005 and demonstrated the excessive number of cancer-related deaths. He shared his findings with local and national academic societies and political authorities. He also offered his solutions to Turkish Grand National Assembly in 2006.
What has changed since that day? Nothing!

Prof. Dr Onur Hamzaoglu recently presented the results of a new study, which he has managed, to publicise through the media.

The demands for investigation and trial began to occur after this statement.
In this study, which has been conducted by Onur Hamzaoglu together with the academicians from the Departments of Public Health, Child Health and Diseases and Medical Genetics at Kocaeli University and supported by the scientific research fund of University, certain heavy metals and trace elements have been detected in colostrum and meconium from the participants.

Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu, as a scientist who has a sense of responsibility, announced this information to public.
After a short period of time following this statement, Mayors of Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality and Dilovası Municipality submitted a lawsuit petition to Kocaeli Public Prosecution Office,demanding the trial of Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu.
They claimed that “he had brought the issue into the notice of large mass of people by saying ‘We have detected zinc, iron, aluminium, lead and cadmium even in maternal breast milk in addition to blood and feces samples, thus, there is an enormous danger’ and employed the results of the research with the intention of causing panic among the people’. Prosecution Office forwarded the file to Kocaeli University Rectorate in order that they examine mentioned act.

If the university permits, Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu will be on trial with the request for 2-4 years imprisonment inaccordance with Article 213 of Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The criminal investigation conducted by Kocaeli University for this reason is ongoing.
However, a disciplinary proceeding was launched by Kocaeli University against Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoglu after The Cancer Control Directorate of Turkish Ministry of Health has sent an offical letter to The Council of Higher Education [YÖK] and the Council has submitted this letter for the review of Kocaeli University Rectorate and urged the Rectorate to take necessary action in this direction."

A blog has been formed in the name of Onur Hamzoğlu. To read it in Turkish, please visit:

We have also written and published a piece, "Freedom of Science," on the current state of the freedom of science in Turkey, here on GIT - North America. To have access to that text and read about the general picture, please visit: