- Created: Tuesday, 04 July 2017 10:33
- Written by Nicki Jameson
Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for nearly 120 days and need international support to highlight their struggle. They are among the more than 10,000 teachers, academics and others who were sacked from their posts by the viciously reactionary Turkish government as part of the repression which has been meted out ever since the failed coup of 15 July 2016.
Nuriye Gulmen is an academic and Semih Ozakca a primary school teacher. Following their dismissals by the AKP government under its state of emergency decrees, they began staging a public protest in central Ankara on 9 November 2016, protesting not only about their own personal cases, but in opposition to the state of emergency laws and for the rights of all dismissed workers.
On 9 March 2017, having been detained by the police, Semih and Nuriye began a hunger strike. This was one of several occasions on which they were arrested and this time they were released after five days. They then resumed their protest outside the human rights monument in Ankara but also continued with their hunger strike. On 22 May they were arrested again and the following day remanded in custody, on the basis of an indictment accusing them of belonging to and propagandising on behalf of a terrorist organisation. On 23 May, the court ruled to remand them in prison on the grounds that ‘despite their prosecution, they insisted on continuing their action on behalf of the terrorist group’. The group in question is the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which is banned in Turkey as it is in Britain. Since the state of emergency was introduced, the government has been using the pretext that they are a supporter of the Kurdish liberation movement the PKK, communist militant groups such as the DHKP-C, or FETO, the organisation of alleged coup leader Fethullah Gulen in order to attack its opponents and criminalise dissent.
Nuriye and Ozakca are continuing their protest from inside Sincan prison and their health is now seriously in danger. Nuriye’s supporters report that last time she met her solicitor, she had to end the visit half way through as she was unable to even speak. She is now struggling to take in fluids. Ozakca too is suffering serious pains in his bones. There are also fears that they may be forced to end their hunger strike against their will. Amnesty International has voiced concern that they will be force-fed as Turkish law allows the authorities to feed prisoners on hunger strike without consent, if authorised by a prison doctor.
For the background to the repression in Turkey see: Turkey’s referendum held in a climate of fear
The Freedom For Nuriye and Semih Committee London has been organising leafleting, publicity in the media, protests outside the Turkish embassy (which continue at 11am every Friday) and solidarity actions in north London. The Committee will be holding a march from Manor House to Wood Green at 6pm on 15 July, and supporters will also be joining the London protests organised by the Anti-Internment Group at the BBC on Saturday 8 July and Downing Street on Sunday 23 July.