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Turkey jails academics on hunger strike over losing their jobs in post-coup purge

May 31, 2017

Two Turkish academics are facing months or even years in prison after being arrested for launching a hunger strike in protest at being fired from their jobs in a widespread purge following the 2016 failed coup attempt.

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have not eaten in 80 days and their hunger strike has become a rallying point for opponents of the increasingly authoritarian government of President Erdogan.

 

 

The pair were arrested this week and a court has now ordered that they be held in custody until they can face charges of “membership of a terror organization.” The Ankara prosecutor said that Gulmen and Ozakca’s protest was an act committed in the name of DHKP-C, a leftist group deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey,

 

Nuriye  Gulmen, a university lecturer, and Semih Ozacka, a primary school teacher, have been surviving on lemon and saltwater and sugar solutions since they began their hunger strike in March. They vowed to continue striking in prison.

 

"We will continue our fight until we are victorious," said Mr Ozakca.

 

The pair were among around 150,000 people fired from public sector jobs in the wake of the coup. Since then they have appeared regularly at protests against the state of emergency laws that came into force in the wake of the coup attempt.

 

After 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.

 

During a preliminary hearing on Tuesday night, prosecutors asked the pair if they had been paid to carry out the hunger strike and accused them of trying to fuel unrest like the Gezi Park protests that began in 2013.

 

Endangered Scholars Worldwide strongly condemns these actions accusations and in addition is also deeply concerned about the health of Nuriye Gülmen, an academic, and Semih Özakça, an elementary school teacher, both of whom have been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest their dismissals from their jobs under the on-going state of emergency.    

 

Given these most recent developments, ESW is obliged to call attention to the urgency of the situation in Turkey to provide a clearer picture of the magnitude of the ongoing repression, and express our solidarity with thousands of Turkish academics who lost their jobs as a result of their peaceful activities and the exercise of their freedom of speech.

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