Nobel Laureate author John Maxwell Coetzee and famous film director Costa Gavras have given support and showed solidarity with Turkish academic Nuriye Gülmen and teacher Semih Özakça, who are on the 83rd day of their hunger strike that they started to protest their purge by a decree of the Turkish government from their professions in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
J.M. Coetzee has released a message for educators Gülmen and Özakça; and emphasized that Turkey needs to return to the rule of law. “Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have bravely gone on hunger strike to draw the attention of the world to the desperate situation of intellectuals in the new Turkey. It is to be hoped that governments associated with Turkey in NATO will take note and exert pressure on President Erdoğan to return his country to the rule of law,” said Coetzee.
Meanwhile, Greek-French film director Costa Gavras has also delivered a message in support of arrested educators Gülmen and Özakça, according to a news report in Bianet.org. By conveying his message via late actor Yılmaz Güney’s wife Fatoş Güney, Gavras has stated that he signed the petition launched in support of the educators and said that “he supports them as well as those who struggle on their side”.
Gavras has said in his message that “Dear Fatoş, I sign the petition of academics who are on hunger strike with pleasure. Furthermore, I support the protests of the people who struggle on their side. Dear Fatoş, I express my friendship and loyalty to you and Yılmaz’s memory”.
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. Reportedly they stated that they will end their hunger strike if the government promises to reinstate all civil servants who have been purged.
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.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (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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