Purged Turkish educators end 324-day partial hunger strike

A Turkish academic and a teacher on Friday ended their partial hunger strike against their dismissal from their jobs by an emergency rule decree, saying they would continue their fight by appealing to the courts.

Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça’s decision came after an appeals commission set up by the Turkish government rejected their applications to return to their jobs, AFP reported.

“From today, we are ending our hunger strike on the 324th day but our resistance will continue ... We will continue our fight for our jobs, we are going to take our case to court,” Gülmen was quoted by AFP as saying.

Gülmen and Özakça were among 140,000 public sector employees sacked in the aftermath of the July 2016 failed coup.

They became a symbol of the widespread crackdown in Turkey after starting a sit-in protest in front of the human rights monument in the country’s capital Ankara, despite being repeatedly detained by the police.

On March 9, 2017, they began a partial hunger strike, consuming only salt, sugar, tea and vitamins.

A Turkish court arrested the educators in May last year and put them on trial on charges of being members of an outlawed left-wing group. Özakça was acquitted last month, but Gülmen was found guilty and sentenced to six years and three months in jail. She is free pending appeal.

Özakça went from weighing 86 kg to 45.3 kg, while Gülmen went from 59 kg to 33 kg, AFP said.