Purged academic and teacher on hunger strike in Turkey for 59 days

Semih Ozakca (left) and Nuriye Gulmen in Ankara during protest.

An academic and primary school teacher who were dismissed from their positions by a government decree law have entered the 59th day of an indefinite hunger strike.

Academic Nuriye Gulmen and teacher Semih Ozakca launched the hunger strike to demand they be reinstated to their jobs.

The pair began protesting by setting up a tent in the centre of Turkish capital Ankara 179 days ago. Gulmen has been detained 26 times by police to force her to end the protest while Ozakca has been taken into custody 15 times.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Gulmen and Ozakca said they would not end the strike until they received a response from authorities.

“Support for our action is growing. People have taken ownership of it. This makes us happy. And this is what the police are afraid of. They are trying to pressure us to stop,” Akca said.

The school teacher added that he’d lost 17kg, sometimes struggled to speak and was suffering pains in his stomach and legs.

Gulmen meanwhile said she was struggling to walk and that her blood pressure was low. “I’ve lost 8 kilos so far and have constant pain so need to rest a lot,” she added.

Several human rights and health organisations released a statement during the week calling on government officials and parliament to take action before any loss of life.