EP displays solidarity with educators on hunger strike in Ankara

Academic Nuriye Gülmen.

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.


Pittella also said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is closing the door to Europe, calling on him to immediately release all political prisoners.

Paying a two-day visit to Ankara, Pittella attended the trial of pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, met with the other leading figures in the HDP and spoke with CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu.

Calling 100 cases launched against Demirtaş by Turkish authorities “not acceptable” in his statement following meetings in Ankara, Pittella said: “This repression of political opposition is happening alongside the mass imprisonment of journalists, judges, academics and soldiers, without charges and without any possibility of appeal.”

“We call on President Erdoğan to release Demirtas and all political prisoners immediately,” the S&D Group president said.

Recalling that the Socialists & Democrats have been the strongest supporters of Turkey’s European future and remain perhaps the last ones, Pittella underlined: “We still support this future. However, President Erdoğan is making it impossible by turning Turkey into an increasingly authoritarian country. We are clear — Erdoğan is closing the door to Europe. For us democracy and human rights come first. ”

Pittella stressed that they will oppose any attempt to bargain on the issues of migration, the customs union and visa liberalization.

“Given the current democratic situation and the recent constitutional referendum, we have been forced to request the suspension of the accession talks. The way the amendments to the constitution are implemented will be crucial for the future of EU-Turkey relations.”

The S&D Group president also called on the CHP, HDP and all democratic opposition forces to assume the political and moral responsibility to put aside their differences and stand united for democracy. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 12, 2017

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