The current Co-chair of the Health and Social Work Labourers’ Union (SES) Selma Atabey was detained on May 25th, 2021, during a police raid on her home. Amongst those detained that day was the former Co-chair of the union, Gönül Erden. A lawsuit was filed against them and Atabey was arrested following Gönül Erden. Eight SES executives are currently facing trial on the charges of “running a terrorist organization”, “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “creating propaganda for a terrorist organization”.
Selma Atabey was born in 1975 in Diyarbakır. She completed the entirety of her education in Diyarbakır. She started working as a nurse in the public sector in 1995. Initially involved with union work, Atabey later got into the women’s movement, and finally, encompassing them all, she became active in the human rights struggle.
She was dismissed from her job of 21 years after the attempted coup on July 15th, 2016. She worked for the Health and Social Work Labourers’ Union (SES) as a member, activist, and Branch Co-chair. She was elected Co-chair of the union on its 10th anniversary alongside Hüsnü Yıldırım for the 2020-2023 term.
Selma Atabey became especially prominent during the Covid-19 pandemic due to her statements about the increasing burden and health risks on health laborers.
Atabey was detained during a police raid to her home on May 25th, 2021, alongside former SES Co-chair Gönül Erden, former Chair Bedriye Yorgun, Professional Competency Board (MYK) members Fikret Çağlayan and Belkıs Yurtsever, former Co-chair of the Ankara Branch of SES Rona Temelli, and Ankara Branch executives Erdal Turan and Ramazan Taş.
In the statement regarding the investigation, the Public Prosecutor of Ankara claimed the suspects’ involvement with the “Public Health Committee” of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and stated that “eight suspects who were confirmed to have acted under the so-called ‘publich health committee’ have been detained.”
Eight SES executives were taken to the prosecutor on June 1st, after a week-long period of custody. The prosecutor sent them to court demanding arrest. The court released all SES members.
The Prosecutor objected to their release. A warrant of arrest was issued on Gönül Erden. She was detained from her home on September 21st, 2021, and placed in Sincan Penitentiary without questioning.
In the lawsuit filed at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court, eight people were put on trial based on allegations of “running a terrorist organization”, “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “creating propaganda for a terrorist organization”. The indictment revealed that the demonstrations and activities held by the union during the pandemic constituted crime.
In the second hearing held on July 4th, 2022, the court ruled on the arrest of Selma Atabey and the continuation of bail measures for those on trial without arrest. There was no ruling for release on the third hearing held on October 3rd, 2022. Selma Atabey is currently being held at the Gebze Women’s Closed Penitentiary.
At the fourth hearing on December 26, 2022, Selma Atabey stated that the statements of the secret witness Ulaş were slanderous and said, “He knows us from the activities of SES in 2013-2014, on the dates he mentioned. I was being treated in 2013 due to my health problems, again in 2014 my sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and I was involved in the whole treatment process. How can I travel during the worst years of my life, on the one hand, struggling with breast cancer, and on the other hand, my sister's cancer. Yes, I went to the Iraqi Kurdistan region once, and it appears in my passport. We have been in prison for months for a man's slander," and demanded her release.
On the grounds that the HTS records were not examined, the court decided to continue the detention of Atabey and Erden, and to lift the signature obligation of Erdal Turan and Ramazan Taş, who were on trial pending trial, and to continue the international travel ban.
In the fifth hearing on March 13, 2023, the court decided to release Gönül Erden from Sincan Women's Closed Prison and to continue the detention of Selma Atabey on the grounds of "suspicious escape". The next hearing will be held on June 5, 2023.