Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its solidarity with Turkish political prisoners and hunger strikers Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça on their 150th day of hunger strike. We urge their immediate release and that of all political prisoners in Turkey’s jails.
Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça are two civil workers who have lost their jobs by a legislative decree after the 15 July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, despite both of their commitment to progressive politics that rejects military coups.
They contested their firing, launching a sit-in protest in Ankara; each day they were arrested and detained by police. They launched a public hunger strike alongside their supporters, including Semih’s wife Esra Özakça. They have carried out a hunger strike, consuming lemon, salt-water, and sugar solutions along with vitamin B1 but no solid foods.
During their strike, they participated in the Ankara protests in support of Palestinian prisoners, including the protest organized on 16 May 2017. They saluted the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike, standing together with the Palestinian community, and have received support from Palestinian community and solidarity organizations in Turkey as well as from Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled. Hassan Tahrawi of the Palestinian community in Ankara declared, “We declare our solidarity as Palestinians with Nuriye, Semih and Kemal Gün. The resistance here and in Palestine is a continuation of the historical solidarity between oppressed peoples.”
On 23 May, only one week after they joined the protest for Palestinian hunger strikers, they were seized and imprisoned. On 29 July, after two months of hunger strike in prison, they were forcibly taken to a hospital. It is clear that they are at risk of forced feeding or forced treatment in the hospital, despite the fact that medical intervention to end a hunger strike violates internationally recognized medical ethics, including the 1991 Malta Declaration.
During their transfer to the hospital, Semih was beaten by guards. They have appealed their case to the European Court of Human Rights but it has, so far, been rejected. Their health has deteriorated rapidly, including muscular atrophy and blurred vision as well as heart irregularities.
We express our solidarity and demand freedom and reinstatement for Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça and all Turkish and Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey’s jails. We also reiterate our solidarity with Harun Turgan, Turkish leftist and Palestine solidarity organizer against Turkey’s normalization of Israel, co-founder of BDS Turkey, and demand his immediate release. From Turkey to Palestine, free all political prisoners!