Ankara police detain educators Gülmen and Özakça on 75th day of hunger strike
Gamze Kolcu – ANKARA
AFP photoPolice have detained two educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on hunger strike for 75 days in protest at being dismissed from their posts through a decree-law issued under the state of emergency rule in Turkey.
Special forces police have also searched their house and confiscated some belongings in a late night raid on May 21.
“All our attempts to speak with the prosecutors were denied and we could not get hold of the documents. But what we understand from the documents is that the police believe that the hunger strike could turn into a death fast and there is a possibility that the protest [of Gülmen and Özakça] could turn into a mass protest,” Selçuk Kozağaçlı, the head of the Contemporary Lawyer’s Association, told a crowd gathered in front of the police station early on May 22.
Kozağaçlı said the detention took place without a court ruling, describing the detention and search warrant as “completely illegal.”
Özakça’s wife, Esra Özakça, was also detained for resisting the detention of the two educators.
“They came to our door at midnight. Nuriye and Semih have already gone to the police station to sign documents as they do every day. First they wanted to break the door, then they broke into our house with the help of a locksmith. It was not a detention but an attempted murder,” Esra Özakça said after being released from detention on May 22, while the two educators’ detention continued.
“They searched everywhere, they upended the room, and they took two of Semih’s books. They did not even let me put on my shoes,” she added.
Lawmakers attend sit-in protest
Following the detention, a group of protesters gathered in front of the Human Rights Monument in Ankara, where the two educators have been conducting their protests. However all attempts were halted by police intervention.
Sultan Özakça, the mother of Semih Özakça, and Esra Özakça wanted to do a sit-in protest and declared their own hunger strike in protest to the detention with a press conference, which was later dispersed by the police officers, who detained Sultan and Esra Özakça, along with 10 other protesters.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers Veli Ağbaba, Mustafa Balbay and Ali Haydar Hakverdi, along with Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Mithat Sancar were present at the press conference.
CHP lawmaker Mustafa Balbay said the protesters were dragged by the police. “Look at what they did to a girl who just wanted to express her support to the two educators who want their jobs back. People want to return to their jobs. They are dragging the supporters to the ground,” he added.
CHP lawmakers also initiated sit-in protests after the police intervention.
The lawmakers sat around the monument for hours demanding the release of the detained protesters and the two educators.
CHP leader slams detentions
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu slammed the detentions via his Twitter account on May 22.
“The government has proven that it regards everyone appealing for his or her right as a threat by detaining our two youngsters staging a hunger strike,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
He also called on the government to return Gülmen and Özakça to their jobs.
Gülmen and Özakça have been on hunger strike for 75 days in a bid to retain the positions from which they were dismissed by decree law, as well as to raise awareness of similar injustices under Turkey’s state of emergency declared after the July 2016 coup attempt.