Turkey is going through its darkest and gloomiest days in terms of rule of law, the right to a fair trial and even the most fundamental rights and liberties, which are major benchmarks for democracy. Intellectuals, journalists, critical politicians, businesspeople, celebrities and media organizations are being silenced via threats and jailed.
A recent report released by a medical board regarding the health of two imprisoned educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have survived the fifth month of a hunger strike they launched to be able to return to their jobs, revealed that the last phase in the fate of these two purge victims has been entered.
According to Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı: “their organs and tissues are shrinking. That is why they are prone to infectious disease, their immune system is damaged. When we look at previous hunger strike cases, we see deaths caused by infectious disease. Changes in brain tissues and problems with muscles might also emerge.”
Gülmen was fired from Konya Selçuk University for her alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement. Özakça was a teacher at a primary school in Turkey’s eastern province of Mardin before he was purged over alleged membership in the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and “disseminating propaganda of this terror organization.”
The two educators were arrested on terror charges in Ankara on May 23, 2017 while they were on a hunger strike demanding their reinstatement to their jobs. They were on the 76th day of their hunger strike when they were arrested.
An indictment, drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, charging Gülmen and Özakça seeks a jail sentence of up to 20 years for each. It is claimed that Gülmen and Özakça’s “hunger strike has strayed from being an innocent search for a right and turned into an activity to recruit new members to the terror organization.”
The document says if Gülmen and Özakça’s medical conditions deteriorate with the continuation of the hunger strike, the state will be held responsible for this and protests will be launched similar to the Gezi protests of 2013.
The Gezi protests took place in the summer of 2013 due to government plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood. The protests, which were sparked out of environmental concerns in Taksim, turned into anti-government protests across the country.
On July 26, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, the lawyer for Gülmen and Özakça, told Turkish media that the two will end their hunger strike when they feel their voices are being heard.
“They are not trying to die. They are on a hunger strike to strengthen their voices. When they feel that their voices have been heard they will end it. That is my opinion. Unfortunately their health is related to the number of days they have been hungry. It has been a very long time. And there are all kinds of dangers and problems that can be expected from being hungry for such a long time. They are using wheelchairs; they are not able to walk without help. They have pain. They are conscious; they are able to meet with their lawyers, doctors and families.” Kozağaçlı said.
As Turkeypurge.com editors, we are deeply concerned about all these developments that undermine even the most fundamental human rights. We call on Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take all necessary steps to prevent the likely death of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça in prison.
We are publishing our concerns to inform the Turkish people and the rest of the world who still believe in democracy, human rights.