By Gürkan Özturan, 99GetSmart
Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have been on hunger strike for more than two months after exhausting the processes to be re-appointed to their positions as educators which they had been dismissed with a decree ruling of the State of Emergency Rule that has been declared in the aftermath of July 15 coup attempt.
Özakça was a teacher at Mardin Mazıdağı Cumhuriyet primary school until getting dismissed from duty with a decree ruling numbered 675, and Gülmen used to work at the Selçuk University until she was dismissed with decree ruling numbered 679 on January 5th. The two educators have been showing great strength in the face of pressure from government over the course of two months. They had been detained, but still continued their hunger strike. When they were to pass a critical threshold on day 45, the physicians’ chamber members wanted to get their consent forms for medical intervention if they were to lose consciousness; yet they refused to consent.
The two educators continue their hunger strike in the heart of Turkey’s capital, Ankara; only few hundred meters away from the Parliament. In a press interview, Gülmen had said “We have lost weight, and are well aware of the risks. We do not want to starve, hence our call to those in charge of getting our jobs back.”
Özakça had stated in an interview, “We not only want our jobs back, but also struggle for our honor. If we struggle together, we shall win. Our victory shall mean the end of fear atmosphere that the government wants to install in Turkey.”
While the two educators continue on day 65 of their hunger strike, there have been several solidarity hunger strikers in other cities and countries. Several other academics for peace, university students, politicians, artists have staged sit-in protests for a one-day hunger strike and have been on rotation, drawing attention to the heart of Turkey, where the two educators are conducting their strike.
PEN International has released a statement naming the worries about the health of Gülmen and Özakça; while in the Netherlands, people have gathered in Amsterdam’s Dam Square rallying in solidarity for the two.
As there have been national and international solidarity rallies to draw attention to injustice and inhumane treatment of the people who have been dismissed with decree rulings and stripped of certain rights, the Prime Minister Yıldırım had stated that he is unaware of the situation, asking if the two have been in prison, after main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu informed Yıldırım on the continueing hunger strikes.
After starting hunger strike on March 10th, the two educators are reportedly showing symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. According to Bianet’s news piece, Ankara Physicians Chamber has held a press meeting where they have announced that the two educators have been showing serious deterioration in health conditions which is a signifier of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Chair of the Physicians’ Chamber, Vedat Bulut has announced that the critical stage has been passed and permissions for medical intervention should be taken, which the two strikers refuse to give. Especially Gülmen has been showing slowed down in heart beat, as well as dropped blood pressure.
10-15% of the people who pass the critical stage on day 45 lose their lives, while 77% lose their lives due to infections in later stages even after leaving hunger strike. 25% must get hospitalized and receive long-term healing and special care in order to come over physical and psychological problems.
Since the declaration of the State of Emergency Rule, more than 150 thousand people have been dismissed from their jobs and lost access to healthcare, education and employment market, including more than a thousand academics and tens of thousands of teachers. NGOs, unions, student movements and various human rights initiatives have been calling for an end to unjust treatment and sharing their worries regarding the hunger strikes.