One more dismissed teacher begins hunger strike in Turkey for reinstatement to job

Dismissed teacher Nazife Onay.

Nazife Onay, one of the thousands of teachers who were expelled from their posts by government decrees in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, has announced that she will begin a hunger strike demanding her reinstatement to her job.

Onay, a teacher of 11 years, has been staging a sit-in protest in the front of the Cevahir Shopping Mall in İstanbul’s Şişli district for 55 days. The teacher announced on Thursday that she will begin a hunger strike and continue her protest in the Yüksel Street of Ankara where two educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who were also removed from their posts by government decrees, had been standing vigil while on a hunger strike. Gülmen and Özakça were arrested on May 23 on terror charges.

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.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has reacted to the arrest of Gülmen and Özakça and expressing its concerns about their health conditions. Responding to a question, the EU Commission said it is very concerned about the deteriorating health conditions of Gülmen and Özakça. The EU has also reiterated that anti-terror law was being arbitrarily used without proper access to legal remedies in Turkey.

“The reports by the news agencies about the arrest of the two Turkish teachers – Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça – worry us. They have been detained by the police in Ankara on 23 May after their 75th day of hunger strike, following their dismissals after the coup attempt. We are following their cases via the EU Delegation in Ankara and are particularly concerned by their deteriorating health conditions,” said an EU spokesperson.

Calling on the Turkish authorities to deepen its close cooperation with the Council of Europe (CoE), the spokesperson said the cooperation was in particular “crucial” to address the remedies to the measures taken by the government after the coup.

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to aspire to the highest democratic standards and practices, including in the area of freedom of expression and rule of law,” the spokesperson said.

The EU has underlined that the main reason for the delay of a visa free travel for Turkish citizens was the arbitrary use of the Turkish anti-terror law.

Turkey promised to take back refugees who illegally cross to the EU in return for financial assistance and a promise of visa liberalization in a deal signed in 2015.

“In addition, the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation has a grave impact on freedom of expression, which is the main reason behind the corresponding outstanding benchmark in the visa liberalization dialogue,” said the spokesperson.

The EU is being severely criticized by human rights organizations for turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations in the acceding candidate country Turkey.

The EU Spokesperson added that any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process and the right of every individual to fair trial need to be respected.

Margaret Atwood

Author Margaret Atwood has also delivered a message in support of educators Gülmen and Özakça on their 84th day of hunger strike. Atwood said: “Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça were both terminated from their jobs by emergency decrees following the coup attempt in July 2016.

“Gülmen and Özakça are two of 4,811 academics and 40,000 teachers who were dismissed by emergency decrees. They have now been on hunger strike for over 80 days and were arrested on 22 May 2017 in dawn raids, with police breaking down their doors.

“They are in prison in Ankara. Their lives are now in danger due to their desire for justice. They should be released and their jobs should be reinstated.

“Please support all people advocating freedom of expression and democracy in Turkey.”

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. (SCF with turkishminute.com) June 1, 2017

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