Educators on hunger strike to end protest if purged civil servants reinstated to jobs

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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

Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators who went on a hunger strike after they were fired by government decrees in the aftermath of a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey and were arrested on May 23, will end their hunger strike if the government promises to reinstate all civil servants who have been purged, according to a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy.

Gülmen was fired from Konya Selçuk University for her alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Özakça was a teacher at a primary school in Turkey’s eastern province of Mardin before he was purged over ties to a terrorist organization.

The two protested for months in the same area of Ankara before they started their hunger strike. Both have been detained several times due to their protests.

Thousands of academics and teachers have been removed from their jobs since the July 15 coup attempt as part of a post-coup purge launched by the government under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

CHP deputy Hüseyin Aygün, who visited Özakça in Sincan Prison in Ankara on Sunday and shared the notes of the meeting on his Twitter account, quoted Özakça as saying, “We can end the hunger strike only when the government promises to hire back those who were purged [from state jobs] and the public opposition declares that they will be following this.”

Aygün wrote that Özakça was on the 81st day of his hunger strike on Sunday and has lost 21 kilograms so far.

The prison administration is refusing to give Özakça vitamin B1 pills and only giving him vitamin B12 pills, which has left the academic weaker, according to Aygün.

An indictment drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that Gülmen and Özakça’s “hunger strike has strayed from being an innocent search for a right and turned into an activity to recruit new members to the terror organization.”

The educators are accused of membership in the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and disseminating the propaganda of this terror organization.

According to the indictment, the educators launched the hunger strike based on an order from the DHKP/C.

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