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Turkish military hit by food poisoning scandal

With hundreds of conscripts hospitalized and one dead from food poisoning, Turks from all political stripes demand answers.
Turkish soldiers march during a parade marking the 93rd anniversary of Victory Day in Ankara, Turkey, August 30, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTX1Q9PW

The latest controversy surrounding Turkey’s military involves its most valued asset: conscripts. In the past month, nearly 2,000 cases of food poisoning have hit the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). For much of last week, successive reports came out of five TSK units in Manisa province that 600 conscripts were hospitalized for severe nausea and vomiting. The incidents came in the wake of another bout in May, when more than 1,000 conscripts in Manisa sought treatment and Pvt. Husnu Ozel died because of food-borne illness.

The Turkish government has responded swiftly. Minister of National Defense Fikri Isik and Commander of the Land Forces Gen. Zeki Colak visited Manisa May 18. During the visit, Isik announced the cancellation of the contract with the company hired to prepare the soldiers’ food. The defense minister informed the Turkish parliament June 19 that he “will demand answers” for the incidents “even if [the offender] was his [brother].” As of June 19, 24 people have been detained in connection with the scandal.

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