Turkish activists have come together on social media to show solidarity with the Yüksel Street protestors, a group of former public servants who have been protesting their dismissal from government jobs by emergency decree-laws in 2016 and who appeared at a hearing today.
Many activists shared messages and videos of solidarity on Twitter with the hashtag Direnenler Kazanacak (Resisters will win). Acun Karadağ, a human rights activist and former teacher who was also arrested and later released for protesting on Yüksel Street, tweeted: “We resisted and we are paying a price. We know we are not alone and we are calling on everyone who is demanding justice to support our hashtag and become a voice for Mehmet Dersulu, Alev Şahin and Nazan Bozkurt.”
Nazan Bozkurt is released from jail at today’s hearing held at the Ankara 28th High Criminal Court. Şahin and Dersulu will however remain behind bars.
The three protestors were among five who were detained on Yüksel Street after protesting their dismissal. A total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained as part of a purge after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 20,610 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs and banned from public service with the claim that they were “member[s] of or have a connection to or are in communication with the structures, organizations, groups or terrorist organizations that are considered by the National Security Council [MGK] to pose a threat to the national security of the state.”
Since 2016 the group has been protesting human rights violations in Turkey and the dismissal of public servants. They mainly gathered in front of the Human Rights Monument on Ankara’s Yüksel Street. The protests first started on November 9, 2016 with two dismissed academics, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, demanding their jobs back. Both academics later went on a hunger strike and were arrested on the 76th day of their protest. After months of imprisonment, Gülmen and Özakça were finally released.
Their demand to be reinstated was rejected by a government commission, the so-called OHAL (State of Emergency) Commission, established as an appeals body to review dismissals from the civil service. In 2018 Gülmen and Özakça ended their 324-day-long hunger strike.
Despite ending their hunger strike protests continued on Yüksel Street, and the Human Rights Monument became a symbol of resistance and demand for justice.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a human rights activist deputy from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), also showed solidarity from his Twitter account. “We will support the Yüksel protestors, who have been persecuted for pursuing their democratic rights, until they find justice,” he tweeted.
Hüda Kaya, a deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was among opposition politicians who supported the hashtag.
Turkish police have notoriously used excessive force against the protestors on Yüksel Street.
They used pepper gas and TOMA anti-riot vehicles against the protestors who were on Yüksel Street on May 1, 2018 and chanting, “Long live May Day, from Yüksel to Taksim,” “We want our jobs back” and “Long live the Yüksel resistance.”
Perihan Pulat, a 75-year-old woman, sustained injuries during the police intervention including bruises and facial swelling.
Some of Nazan Bozkurt’s hair was ripped from her head during the same protest.
Karadağ was beaten and seriously injured by the police during a protest in 2017. Karadag was still recovering from heart surgery at the time.