Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş calls on arrested educators to end hunger strike

Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş calls on arrested educators to end hunger strike

Jailed HDP co-chair Demirtaş calls on arrested educators to end hunger strike

AFP photo

The jailed co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, has called on two arrested educators to end their hunger strike.

Demirtaş penned a letter to Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on a hunger strike for over 110 days, from the prison where he is being held in the northwestern province of Edirne.

Gülmen, an academic, and Özakça, a primary school teacher, are among thousands of people dismissed from their posts through state of emergency decrees. Turkey declared a state of emergency after the July 15 coup attempt and have been issuing emergency decrees ever since.

Gülmen and Özakça have been on a hunger strike demanding to be returned to their jobs, and they were arrested on May 23, the 75th day of their strike, on terror charges.

In his letter, Demirtaş said he finds the “resistance” shown by the educators “meaningful,” adding that it is an “effective opposition in the face of injustices and unlawfulness.’”

He also said a majority of the people support the educators in their struggle.

“The decision to start and end a hunger strike depends on your own free will. But that being said, as a politician friend of yours, who represents the will of millions, I kindly ask you to end this hunger strike,” Demirtaş said.

A similar call was recently made by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who also said a significant portion of society supports their demands.

“Please end your hunger strike. The majority of society supports you. We want the injustice you experienced to end. You want to get back to your job and we support you,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on June 25, noting that over 100,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs with “no questions asked.”

“Some of the procedures carried out may be wrong. They [the government] know there are injustices in some of the procedures. I hope the injustice against you will be removed as soon as possible. I request, wish, kindly ask, and plead for these two friends to end their hunger strike. Don’t fade your lives out. You’ve undertaken a massive burden. End this now and don’t sacrifice your lives,” he added.

After the calls, Gülmen sent a letter from the prison they are kept in Ankara’s Sincan, saying they will continue their hunger strike until the “injustice they have faced is repaired.”

“We only want our jobs back. They thought they could silence us by arresting us but they were wrong. We are aware of the well-intentioned calls to end our hunger strike, but we are determined to continue until the injustice we have faced is repaired,” Gülmen said in her letter. 

On June 28, the Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the release demand for the educators. The top court said the prison conditions didn’t pose an urgent danger against their physical and spiritual health.

Speaking about the ruling, their lawyer, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, said they are “angry,” describing the arrests as “illegitimate” and adding that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is expected to announce its ruling on the application soon.