111 prominent figures call on Turkish gov’t to take action for academics on hunger strike

On the 111th day of a hunger strike launched by two academics, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who were fired from their jobs in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, 111 prominent figures in a newspaper ad on Tuesday called on the government to take action to save the academics from dying.

The newspaper ad was given by famous intellectuals, artists, deputies and human rights activists such as Ayşe Kulin, Ahmet Ümit, Ercan Kesal, Ferzan Özpetek, Fatih Portakal, Hayko Çepkin, Halil Ergün, Korkut Botatav, Meltem Cumbul, Murathan Mungan, Müjde Ar, Menderes Samancılar, Müjdat Gezen, Rutkay Aziz, Selçuk Yöntem, Türkan Elçi,  Zülfü Livaneli and Zuhal Olcay.

The newspaper ad, which was published by the Hürriyet, Cumhuriyet, Birgün and Evrensel dailies, noted that the health condition of Gülmen and Özakça has reached a critical level.

“Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça are only two of the 5,000 academics, 50,000 teachers and 150,000 public workers who were removed from their jobs by an OHAL [emergency rule] decree. They were jailed because they launched a hunger strike demanding to be reinstated to their jobs. They are hungry for 111 days. Don’t let Nuriye and Semih die. Reinstate their right to employment. We want the state to take the necessary steps so that they can return to their schools and continue their lives. Justice and democracy require this,” says the newspaper ad.

Meanwhile, Nuriye Gülmen has released a letter and said that ‘If the concern is about our ‘hunger’, then, we should not even be mentioning it in a world where children wake up to holiday mornings in hunger!’ The letter which was sent by Nuriye Gülmen, which she wrote on the 105th day of her hunger strike, is as follows:

‘Today is June 21st. We are on the 105th day of our hunger strike. On Sunday (June 25), the Muslim people will be celebrating Eid. And, I will be experiencing my first Eid away from my family and loved ones. This will also be the first holiday for me spent in hunger.

What could our hunger really mean in a world where millions of children go to bed hungry every night and where millions of people in the world are hungry for justice? If the concern is about our ‘hunger’, then, we should not even be mentioning it in a world where children wake up to holiday mornings in hunger!

But today, what our hunger means is something way beyond the hunger felt in the stomach. The hunger that we are going through is an effort to be the voice of all people who are hungry for justice, bread, and honor in the current crisis in the world in 21st century, where imperialism has made all people of the world pay a price.

This year’s Eid will not be the best holiday we’ve had ever. We are going to celebrate the best days when the people get satisfied with justice. But for now, we will also know how to celebrate it with what we have in hand.

We are going to celebrate the upcoming holiday with the joy of living in integrity. We are going to celebrate it in joy under the same sky with all those ‘good warriors’ of the ongoing fight for earning one’s bread in honor.

Our hunger on the 109th day will be dedicated to the children of the world who wake up to holiday mornings in hunger.”

Gülmen and Özakça were on a hunger strike when they were arrested on terror charges on May 23 in Ankara in the wake of the botched coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. Gülmen was fired from Konya Selçuk University, and 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.

Gülmen and Özakça are two educators in Turkey – among thousands – who have been dismissed with the order of an emergency decree. While their hunger strike, which they started to demand their jobs back, has already marked its 111th day, they have also spent more than a month of this time in jail, since the morning of May 23rd when their houses were raided by police in an early morning operation. (SCF with turkishminute.com) June 27, 2017

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