Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The health of our comrades Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça deteriorates on hunger strike

Concerns are growing for the health of Nuriye Gülmen, an academic, and Semih Özakça, an elementary school teacher, who are on hunger strike after being dismissed from their jobs under the on-going state of emergency.

After beginning a sit-in protest on Ankara’s Yuksel Street 184 days ago, Gülmen and Özakça have now been on hunger strike for the last 63 days in an effort to raise awareness of the desperate situation facing the thousands of people who have been removed from their positions by government decrees and effectively banned from finding other work.

Gülmen’s health condition significantly deteriorated on Monday, but she has so far refused the offer of medical care. And as Onur Karahanlı, executive board member of the Chamber of the Doctors of Ankara, explained to Diken the situation is increasingly grave: “Gülmen and Özakça have lost serious weight in recent days. They are now in the very critical period where their nervous and cardiovascular systems are being damaged after two months of hunger.”

Despite being largely ignored by the government, the case has seen growing public outcry, with singer Sezen Aksu among the high-profile figures who have recently called on the authorities to take action to end the pair’s plight

Members of the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, also recently visited Gülmen and Özakça and asked them to end the strike before their health condition seriously deteriorate. But Özakça told the delegation that “there is no point ending the strike before seeing any concrete statement from the government about our situation.”

Meanwhile, Filiz Kerestecioğlu, a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, delivered a letter to Thorbjorn Jagland, general secretary of the Council of Europe, in an attempt to draw international attention to the worsening health conditions of the pair.

“I am feeling better now after your support and solidarity. Our resistance is continuing and we will not stop until we gain our rights again. Thank you to everyone who supported us in our resistance. From now we call everyone to join us in front of the human rights monument [on Ankara’s Yuksel Street]” Gülmen said in a video published together with Özakça on Monday.

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