To tell about Onur Hoca it is of course necessary to start with public health and Turkish Medical Association as the field and organization through which Onur Hoca expressed himself with his thoughts and actions and became almost identical with.
But still there is use in knowing about the course that made Onur Hamzaoğlu “Onur Hoca”.
Onur Hamzaoğlu was born in Ordu in 1961 to parents both of whom were teachers. His way leading to “Onur Hoca” started with his preference of medical school/medicine and continued with a diploma from Gülhane Military School of Medicine (GATA) and specialization in the field of public health. Then he completed his sub-branch specialization in epidemiology in Hacettepe University, followed by his career as assistant professor in epidemiology and associate professor in public health in GATA. He was professor in public health in Kocaeli University from 2002 to 2016.
Also serving in the TODAİE (Public Administration Institute for Turkey and Middle East) as a visiting scholar, Hamzaoğlu undertook various administrative duties including heading departments in Gülhane Military School of Medicine, and Yüzüncü Yıl and Kocaeli Universities. He helped as advisor in medical specialization and post-graduate theses in different fields; headed various research projects on a wide spectrum from leukaemia to medication protocols, from industry-environmental health relations to family planning and from poverty studies to bioequivalence. Hamzaoğlu organized hundreds of courses in various branches of public health including epidemiology and research techniques; for long years he contributed to many institutions in the country with his presentations in public health issues including industry-public health relations, health policies and inequalities in health.
Onur Hamzaoğlu received several awards at both national and international levels from various scientific and academic institutions particularly for his scientific studies on relations between industry and environmental health including the following: The Green Prophet 2011 Environmental Hero Award; Nusret Fişek Public Health Award; Hasan Balıkçı Honorary Award; and Award in Research Ethics. Hamzaoğlu also received Dr Nejat YAZICIOĞLU Workers’ Health Award as one of the researchers involved in developing an original model for education in occupational health in schools of medicine. His articles published in national and international peer-reviewed journals and edited books are so numerous to take pages when listed.
The following are national-level professional, health and social sciences associations and platforms that Prof Dr Hamzaoğlu has membership to: Kocaeli Chamber of Medicine, HASUDER (Association of Public Health Specialists), Turkish Haematology Association, Union of Health and Social Service Workers, TSBD (Social Scientists Association of Turkey), SAV (Foundation for Social Studies), Karaburun Science Congress, Kocaeli Solidarity Academy which he was one of the founders after dismissal from university upon a KHK (Decree in Force of Law), and Democratic Congress of Peoples. Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu is a member of the Executive Board of IAHPE (International Association of Health Policy in Europe) since 2011.
As can be gathered from this brief academic background Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu is a meritorious scientist committed to public health, a researcher building significant bridges between health and social sciences, and an activist struggling for years for the rights and freedom of peoples and working people. He approached some burning issues like inequalities that many others evade as his specific field of study and considered it as an honourable task to produce knowledge to be adopted by society. It has become his principle to conduct academic and scientific work within and for society.
Besides his work as a man of science and out of academy, Onur Hoca has continuously been in the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) since the early 90s as a ground for well-reasoned collective interventions and actions to the benefit of public health.
We would not have made any injustice to others if we said the TTB is the primary address of Onur Hamzaoğlu since it is actually the “school” where he trained himself, the democratic mass organization that he put his efforts, a school where he elaborated science for society. The TTB is an organization that priorities public health to the extent that it prioritizes the rights of doctors and this characteristic of the association stands firmly for so many years thanks to Hamzaoğlu and other doctors of his genre. Hamzaoğlu is one of the leading figures that ensured and maintained the status of the TTB as a socially sensitive democratic organization instead of a mere ‘civil society organization’ or a ‘guild association.’ Hamzaoğlu strived to make the TTB an important component in the struggle of working people in Turkey. Besides such fields as the rights of doctors and other professional issues, if the TTB as the organization of doctors is a respected one, an address in the struggle for democratization, equality and freedom, Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu has his invaluable contributions to this. The TTB’s stance on the side of workers’ movement in Turkey stems from the recognition of the relationship between workers’ health status and relations of production and the impossibility of defending equal, quality, free and accessible public health services to all without combating inequalities and discrimination. Onur Hamzaoğlu’s commitment has its imprint in the formation, development and continuity of this line.
The public in Turkey became more familiar with Onur Hoca with his studies on the impact of industrial establishments in Dilovası (Kocaeli) on environmental and human health. To speak the truth, the enemies of public health were already “disturbed” by what Hamzaoğlu did and shared starting as early as 1990s and Dilovası research served as an occasion to set him as a target, the latest outcome of which turned out as his present imprisonment. He has always been a target for the last 10 years and they wanted to see him in prison, take back his academic title and present him as a “charlatan”. They were not interested in such facts as the rate of cancer related deaths among hundreds of thousands of people living in Marmara region three times higher than the country average and presence of heavy metals in mothers’ breast milk and in infant stool. They just wanted Onur Hoca out to keep their profits high and poisoning infants and adults without taking any counter measure. But their complots fell apart running into the walls of his sound scientific research. Onur Hamzaoğlu won all court actions brought against him and had those from local government calling him “charlatan” convicted (For further information on this important event see, www. onurumuzusavunuyoruz.org)
Onur Hoca is a man of science having a holistic outlook to public health and speaking out his word and taking his action in a natural manner upon this consistent ground. Hence, he did his best as a consistent public health defender and a peace activist for putting an end to armed conflict which is killing, maiming and impoverishing, in short exhausting our people for years on this land. He was one of the more than 2000 signatories of the text titled “We shall not be accomplices to this crime.” Sadly, he was expelled from his duty with the KHK no. 672 issued on 1 September 2016, a step to prevent him from contributing to public health. Still, Onur Hamzaoğlu continued his academic and scientific work and social and political struggle under OHAL (State of Emergency) conditions; kept defending peace as the indispensable condition of public health everywhere. He was among the founders of Kocaeli Solidarity Academy and kept contributing to the work of these academies.
Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu, a publicly known figure in the world of science and public health struggle is also an active defender of rights in political domain. Already affiliated with People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) since 2011, he undertook the duty of co-spokesperson starting from 2017.
Despite of his work intensity as a co-speaker of the HDK he was in Ankara, at the TTB building on 30 January 2018: The members of TTB Central Council were detained for their press statement saying “war is a public health problem”!
With his TTB identity, as a student of a school training doctors longing for a democratic, laic and free world and Turkey without war and exploitation, defenders of the values of the profession of medicine and rights of doctors on the basis of the right of people to health, he was present in the “class” on January 30th. He almost never left until the evening of February 5th, in a sense he “slept” at TTB for a week, he was there until the release of Central Council members.
This engagement too must have been noted, so with a similar reason, that is for defending peace he was detained on February 9th as a part of a nation-wide operation prior to the 3rd Congress of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and arrested on February 17th. The basis was a press statement made on February 4th
It would fall short if this arrest is conceived merely as a threat to opposition; it is also and perhaps before all, the revenge of those who just ignore environmental pollution and public health problems in their greedy search for profit.
Hamzaoğlu is coined as “Selikoff of Turkey” in reference to the US doctor Irving Selikoff who was long criticized and accused of medical fraud for revealing the harmful effects of asbestos but is now considered as the founding father of present day bans on asbestos. Just as Dr Irving Selikoff who is celebrated today as a hero after his life was turned into hell for revealing the deadly effects of asbestos, Onur Hamzaoğlu is a banner for all academics and scientists after ensuring the parliamentary discussion of the report of the TBMM (Turkish Grand National Assembly) Commission of Inquiry in the light of his findings from Dilovası. It does not sound convincing for anyone when a defender of public health like Onur Hoca is now targeted in the context of a so-called “terror investigation.
We call for immediate release of Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu as well as all writers, journalists, scientists, academics and activists who are in prison upon arbitrary justifications.
The people have its HONOUR!