Miners at trustee-appointed coal mine start hunger strike in Turkey’s north

Miners at trustee-appointed coal mine start hunger strike in Turkey’s north

Serkan Ocak - ZONGULDAK
Miners at trustee-appointed coal mine start hunger strike in Turkey’s north Miners at a trustee-appointed coal mine have started a hunger strike in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, after not receiving their wages for months. 

Some 245 miners at the facility have not been paid for nearly four months and 85 have opted to strike by refusing the leave the mine, to which a trustee was appointed for alleged links to the so-called “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ),” which refers to the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar based in the U.S. who is accused of plotting a coup against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“We will be in the mine until we die if necessary,” said the miners in a hunger strike in the Kilimli district, stressing that they are simply demanding their rights. 

“We have only received one wage since January 2016. A trustee was appointed on May 9. Our jobs were cancelled and no one is looking after us. This now our second day in the mine on strike. I have left just to get some air. Everyone else is still inside. There are 85 of us in total,” miner Serkan Demir told daily Hürriyet on May 20, adding that other workers had been unable to join the strike because of police prevention.

Trustees were on April 13 appointed to the Deka and Balçın mines, which employ 130 and 115 miners respectively.

The miners recently staged a protest on the roof of a local business center on May 11, calling on the Governor’s Office to help them get their wages. The chief of police ended the protest by saying they will have a meeting with the trustee to resolve the problems, but wages have still not been paid. 

The miners then decided to stage another protest, with many miners in Deka deciding to refuse to leave the mine where they have worked for many years and staging a hunger strike. 

The health situations of two miners have already deteriorated and they had to be rushed out of the mine and taken to a local hospital. Families of the participants of the strike are now waiting in front of the entrance of the coal mine. 

“The ventilation of the mine is good for now. But it gets very cold at night. Our families are waiting in front of the mine. We will continue our protest until we get the rights that we deserve. I’ve been mining for 10 years. Most of our friends have been working here for five to 15 years. This is a hunger strike. We are drinking our water, but the health conditions of some of our friends have deteriorated,” Demir also said, vowing that they will stay in the Deka mine “until they fall.” 

Meanwhile, representatives of the 115 miners working at the Balçın mine said the police refused to allow anybody into Deka to support the miners. 

“We came here to support our friends. They’ve spent the night in the mine. But the police aren’t letting anybody into the mine so we can’t enter. We are providing support from outside,” miner Cemal Akın told daily Hürriyet. He added that the workers at the Balçın mine had not worked since April 4.