Gülmen and Özakça, two dismissed educators on hunger strike, arrested in Turkey

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 detained on Monday, were arrested by an Ankara court on Tuesday.

The educators were detained after police searches of their homes in the early hours of Monday. They were referred to the Ankara Courthouse on Tuesday with the prosecutor demanding their arrest on the 76th of their hunger strike.

Lawyer Zehra Özdemir has said Özakça was asked by the prosecutor what the motive behind his hunger strike was and about his social media posts. “The prosecutor’s office asked Özakça, ‘What kind of a benefit was presented to you in order for you to launch a death fast?’ In return, Semih said, ‘I’m not on a death fast, but I’m on a hunger strike. What kind of interest could I have?’” Özdemir told news portal Bianet.

Lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı has also said they were asked more about the “actual motive” behind their hunger strike. “What is the purpose of you engaging in acts that are far from demanding rights, but instead are inciting hatred and enmity among people?” the educators were reportedly asked.  Özakça and Gülmen were also reportedly asked whether they wanted to start mass protests similar to the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

Accused of inciting a new ‘Gezi-like protest,’ Özakça and Gülmen have reportedly faced the following questions during their interrogation at the prosecutor’s office: “A video footage in which you played a guitar and sang a song was shared on social media and you liked it. Did you think that those who shared this video could be members of a terrorist organization? What is the main goal of these actions that purport to be an innocent right-seeking? Do you seek to incite new Gezi-like incidents through collective demonstrations around the country? What is your purpose in staging an action that is away from right-seeking and arouses hatred and grudge among people? Which benefits are offered to you for staging a death fast action?”

While waiting for the court’s decision after testifying, Özakça said that “they can’t get the right to ask for a job from them.” “These pressures, threats of arrests and arrests are their desperation. We will preserve our hope and will continue our struggle until victory,” Özakça said.

Gülmen, meanwhile, said they can be arrested even if there were no evidences. “The prosecutor can’t ask a question. The only question he was able to ask was, ‘Did you share anything through social media that includes criminal tendencies?’ There wasn’t any question other than that. However, we think that we will be arrested. We will continue rejecting being oppressed in jail too. That’s why they are desperate. Our resistance will continue in jail,” she said.

Meanwhile, a sit-in protest staged by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers after the educators were detained lasted for seven hours.

Photo: Bianet.org

After academic Gülmen and teacher Özakça were detained, the Human Rights Monument in front of which they were sitting since the beginning of their resistance has been “detained” as well. Police “detained” the Human Rights Monument and encircled the area with barriers because Gülmen and Özakça were detained on the grounds that “it might trigger an event like Gezi Resistance or Tekel Resistance”.

The Human Rights Monument, which is a statute of a woman holding “the Declaration of Human Rights” in her hand, is on the intersection of Konur Street and Yüksel Street in Ankara. The monument was built in 1990 and witnessed many demonstrations throughout its history.

CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, criticized that people supporting Gülmen and Özakça were also detained, likening the cordoning of the monument by the police to an arrest. “Breaking news: The government, unable to slow down with detentions and arrests under the state of emergency, has arrested the human rights monument too!” Tanrıkulu said on his Twitter account on May 22 with a picture of the street.

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, 2016 coup attempt as part of a post-coup purge launched by the government under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

May 23, 2017

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