EP displays solidarity with educators on hunger strike in Ankara

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President of the European Parliament Socialists and Democrats Group Gianni Pittella (C) gestures during a visit in support Turkish academic Nuriye Gulmen (L) and an elementary school teacher Semih Ozakca (R) on the 65th day of a hunger strike in protest to their dismissal by decree-law on May 12, 2017 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

President of the European Parliament’s Socialists & Democrats Group Gianni Pittella on Friday paid a visit to Turkish academic Nuriye Gülmen and elementary school teacher Semih Özakça on the 65th day of a hunger strike in protest of their dismissal by a decree-law.

Pitella’s visit came hours after police dispersed a crowd of demonstrators as they were protesting in an Ankara square against the suspension of Gülmen and Özakça. Four demonstrators who were detained by police were released in the afternoon.

In the meantime 30 main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies sent a letter to Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım demanding the reinstatement of the two educators.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu urged authorities to look into the educators’ case.

On Wednesday, early symptoms of Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1, began to manifest in the two educators who have been on a hunger strike since March 10, according to a statement from Vedat Bulut of the Ankara Chamber of Doctors.

Gülmen and Özakça, who weighed 59 and 86 kilograms, respectively, before the hunger strike, now weigh 50 and 69 kilograms.

Bulut also said both Gülmen and Özakça have refused medical intervention if they lose consciousness.

The ruling Justice and Development Party government has dismissed over 145,000 people including more than 5,000 academics for allegedly having links to the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a claim that the movement strongly denies.

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