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Turkish police shows heavy handed response toward supporters of hunger strike

By Leyla Amur

Turkey’s police intervened at an event in Ankara marking the 65th day of a hunger strike started by academic Nuriye Gülmen and elementary teacher Semih Özakça. The gathering was held right in front of the Human Rights Monument.

During the intervention in the morning, police removed signs from protesters and benches before arresting four people – Mehmet Dersulu, Rezzan Şengül, Eser Budak, and Ayşe Arapgirli – who were later set free after their names were registered at the police station. Gülmen and Özakça were not present during the intervention.

One of the protestors, Dersulu, told local media the following of what happened before and after he was arrested. “Before [we were arrested] they started walking around us. We asked them why they were doing that and they said that it was ‘for our protection’. Then they said that the ‘governor has a decision and said to remove you guys in five minutes’. Then they intervened. Five police men arrested me. They tormented me and scraped my brow. My back is in a lot of pain. They hit Rezzan’s legs.”

When news broke of police action in the area, protestors flocked to the memorial to support those arrested and Gülmen and Özakça. Members of Parliament from CHP and HDP along with a delegation from the European Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats Group also visited the site in a show of support.

Gülmen and Özakça began their hunger strike in early March after being dismissed from their jobs due to a presidential decree. Their aim is to raise awareness of the thousands of people who have lost their positions during the ongoing state of emergency since the failed coup attempt on July 15.

This hunger strike has only recently garnered the attention of high-level government officials, with CHP parliament member Mahmut Tanal took to Twitter after hearing of the intervention by saying: “The state will drive its citizens, and even conspire in an illegal and unjustifiable way, towards a baseless hunger.”

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