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Turkey’s girls, women struggle with body image

A Turkish woman who died following gastric sleeve surgery has revived the debate about women’s body image in Turkey.

The death of 35-year-old Ozge Seker in October shortly after her weight loss surgery has put the spotlight on risky gastric sleeve surgery in Turkey. Her death, due to complications and infection, has brought to the surface the ugly reality of the many unreported deaths all over the country following this type of surgery. While the promotion of this medical intervention as a shortcut for losing weight has become big business, the public is not sufficiently aware of the risks of such gastric surgeries and seems blinded by the media’s reports of celebrities’ overnight weight loss.

Nationwide debate sparked by Seker’s death led to a swift response from the Ministry of Health. On Oct. 20, it released a statement explaining new criteria for gastric sleeve surgery, aiming to minimize the risk of such medical procedures. But the circumstances of Seker’s death, including that she weighed only 78 kilograms (172 pounds) prior to it, alarmed the public. “Have we all become nuts about our body image?” wrote Ayse Arman, daily Hurriyet columnist and one of the most popular female journalists in the country. She continued, “What is the big deal if she was seven or eight kilos heavier than what she idealized? At least she would be alive today.”

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