Hunger-striking miners entomb selves in mine amid health concerns in Turkey
ZONGULDAKTwenty-eight miners staging a hunger strike inside a trustee-appointed mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak have formed an artificial blockade at the mine’s main gallery, effectively blocking access to their location amid rising concerns over their health condition.
No information is now reaching the outside world from the striking miners.
“We cannot get in. But they also cannot come out. We haven’t been able to get any news from inside since 4 p.m. [on May 26]. They abandoned themselves to death,” said the miners’ representative, Ömer Kaplan, who only exited the mine after nine days on May 26 after experiencing a health problem.
Noting that the miners had been discussing whether to block the entrance but had not yet reached a final decision, Kaplan warned that anything could happen as the workers continue their labor action under very difficult conditions.
“They no longer have the power to endure because it is really cold in there. There is hunger, they are being given oxygen and an adequate amount of water,” Kaplan has told Hürriyet, explaining that the miners were experiencing symptoms such as fever and vomiting.
Another miner of 19 years, Hüseyin Cindi, said the barring of entries and exits posed a great risk as they could no longer remove those who require urgent healthcare.
Cindi said the miners might have blocked access in reaction to the outside world as no improvements had been made in nine days.
“There is a different psychology down there. After a while, you experience changes in your mood and way of thinking due to exposure to methane and carbon [dioxide],” he said.
‘Police barring entry of water, sugar into mine’
Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) deputy chairperson Veli Ağbaba told CNN Türk that the mine was blocked after police attempted to intervene.
“[State authorities] are trying to punish the miners merely because they are seeking their rights,” Ağbaba said, accusing the governor of Zonguldak of “acting like the representative of the trustee panel [appointed to the mine].”
Ağbaba, who visited Zonguldak’s Kilimli district where the mine is located with a delegation of three CHP deputies on May 26, also slammed the governor’s office and security forces for preventing them from communicating with the miners.
Authorities are harming the protesters even though their actual duty is to ensure their safety throughout the strike, Ağbaba added.
Police are no longer permitting water, salt, sugar and fruit juice – all of which are necessary items that need to be consumed by people on hunger strike – into the mine, Ağbaba said.
Meanwhile, the Zonguldak Governor’s Office made two statements on the miners’ unpaid salaries, initially announcing the company’s debts would be paid to miners who are outside of the mine before agreeing to pay all miners, provided the hunger strike ends.
“Except for some 15-20 workers who continue to illegally occupy the mine, the payments to other workers will start tomorrow morning [May 26] as a demonstration of our efforts and goodwill,” the initial statement said.
It was followed by a second statement late on May 26 in which the governor’s office agreed to pay all miners in the event they end the protests.
However, the miners insist on continuing their strike until all their demands are met, saying they would not be satisfied with a mere repayment of debts.
Some 245 miners at the facility have not been paid for nearly four months, and 85 opted to strike by refusing to leave the mine, which was taken over by a trustee because the previous owner had ties to the alleged “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” which refers to the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar based in the United States who is accused of plotting a coup against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).