Updated: Apr 26, 2019
Veli Saçılık, a friend of the Turkish professor Nuriye Gülmen who started a hunger strike in order to protest her dismissal under state of emergency decree-laws issued after a failed coup in Turkey last year, stated that Gülmen is now just 37 kg (81 lbs). Saçılık said to Artı Gerçek online news that, “According to the information we received from the hospital authorities, bedsores have increased, and the injuries are not being healed . . . It seems that she will never be able to get back to her old health, unfortunately.”
On November 5, 2017, a Turkish court ruled that imprisoned teacher Semih Ozakca, who has been on a hunger strike for over seven months, would be placed under house arrest for the duration of his trial. The court, however, denied release to Nuriye Gülmen, who had been transferred from jail to a hospital due to her poor health. She has been subsisting only on water, sugar, salt, and vitamin B and has lost 50 pounds in the 226 days of her strike.
The two academics began their hunger strike to protest their dismissal as part of last year's governmental purge of more than 150,000 public servants in the aftermath of a failed military coup of July 2016. They have become symbols of resistance against the crackdown and restriction of liberties that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has undertaken against academics, police, judges, and soldiers.
The 35-year-old Gülmen began the hunger strike on March 9 to protest her dismissal as a literature professor. Ozakca, who also lost his job, joined Gülmen shortly after.
As publicity of the hunger strike grew, Turkish prosecutors abruptly accused the academics of being members of a terrorist organization, an accusation that has commonly leveled in Turkey since the coup attempt. The pair has denied all charges and claims the government wants to stifle their act of public protest.
Under the state of emergency, those dismissed from their positions have been subjected to a lifetime ban from seeking employment as civil servants and face a range of social and professional hurdles. Their passports, and those of some of their spouses, have been cancelled, as has their health insurance. Endangered Scholars Worldwide is deeply concerned about the health of Nuriye Gülmen. Given the most recent developments, ESW is obliged to call attention to the urgency of the situation in Turkey, providing a clearer picture of the magnitude of the ongoing repression, and to express our solidarity with the thousands of Turkish academics who lost their jobs as a result of their peaceful activities and exercise of their freedom of speech.