Turkish pop icon Sezen Aksu appeals to authorities for hunger striking teachers

Turkish pop icon Sezen Aksu.

Famous Turkish artist Sezen Aksu has called on authorities to address the ongoing hunger strike by purged academic Nuriye Gulmen and primary school teacher Semih Ozakca, which entered its 62nd day on Tuesday with the demand for reinstatement to their jobs.

In a statement entitled, “They Are Giving Up On Their Lives”, published on her personal website on Monday, Aksu said the hunger strikers were at a critical stage and allowing them to “waste away” would be shameful.

“Two young teachers, Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca, have been on hunger strike for 60 days. They are giving up on their lives. The price of conflicting ideas or struggles should not be loss of life. The most fundamental right we can afford each other is life and the right to life. If they waste away in front of our eyes, who of us can be free of the shame?

“I am appealing to all the elected and appointed authorities in this country: Please listen, please listen to what they are saying,” she concluded.

Gulmen and Ozakca were dismissed from their jobs by government decree law following last year’s coup attempt, but have not been accused of having ties to the alleged coup plotters.

The pair started a sit-in in Ankara in November 2016 and hit the headlines for being detained dozens of times by police in a matter of a few weeks.

Their protest evolved into a hunger strike on 9 March and the teachers put forward several demands to end the indefinite and irreversible protest: “For state of emergency to be lifted; for all revolutionary and democrat public sector workers to be reinstated to their jobs and for an end to arbitrary and illegal dismissals.”

According to reports both strikers have lost severe weight and are regularly suffering from high blood pressure and blackouts. Despite calls from some quarters the pair have refused to end the hunger strike until their demands are met.

According to the monitor, Turkey Purge, almost 140,000 public sector workers have been dismissed since the coup, with more than 8,000 of them academics. Turkey has been criticised violating due process in dismissals.

Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker and group chair, Filiz Kerestecioglu, also wrote a letter recently asking European leaders to communicate with the Turkish authorities in order to open up a dialogue between the hunger strikers and government authorities.

Sezen Aksu is known as the “Queen of Turkish Pop” and has sold 40 million albums worldwide. In the past she has also supported the Turkish-Kurdish “solution process” for an end to conflict in Turkey and is a proponent of LGBT rights.