ANKARA May 22 Turkish police detained two
teachers who have been on hunger strike for more than two months
protesting against a government crackdown in which they lost
their jobs following last year's failed coup, CNN Turk and a
lawyer reported on Monday.
The channel said two lawyers who attempted to obstruct the
police were also detained and police searched properties in the
overnight raids. There was no immediate comment from police.
Literature professor Nuriye Gulmen and primary school
teacher Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for more than 10
weeks after losing their jobs following the failed July coup
against President Tayyip Erdogan.
They have held demonstrations in central Ankara to highlight
their plight, and that of around 150,000 state employees who
were suspended or sacked after the failed putsch, which Erdogan
blames on followers of a U.S.-based cleric.
Gulmen wrote on her Twitter account overnight: "Political
department police are trying to enter the house. They are now
breaking the door".
"Damn fascism! Long live our hunger strike resistance! We
want our jobs back! We have not and will not surrender!" she
Necati Yilmaz, a lawmaker from the main opposition CHP
party, wrote on Twitter that the reason for their detention was
"the possibility that their protests could turn into death fasts
and new Gezi protests".
He was referring to large anti-government demonstrations
four years ago, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the
streets to protest a plan to build a replica Ottoman barracks on
Gezi park in central Istanbul.
A lawyer, Selcuk Kozagacli, wrote on Twitter that police had
detained the two hunger strikers and that they were tired but
well, although they "were knocked about quite a bit".
Gulmen and Ozakca, surviving on a liquid diet of lemon and
saltwater and sugar solutions, have lost weight during their
protest and doctors said earlier this month their health was
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges,
teachers, police and civil servants and has arrested nearly
50,000 others suspected of links to a movement backing cleric
Turkish officials say the crackdown is necessary because the
Gulen movement had set up a "state within a state" that
threatened national security. They point to the gravity of last
July's coup, when rogue troops commandeered warplanes to bomb
parliament and used tanks to kill 240 people. Gulen has denied
Erdogan's critics in Turkey and abroad say he is using the
coup to purge opponents and muzzle dissent. Last month he
narrowly won a referendum that grants him sweeping new powers.
Rights group Amnesty International said in a report
published on Monday that the dismissals of state employees had
been carried out arbitrarily and had a catastrophic impact on
"The failure of authorities to set out clear criteria for
the dismissals or provide any individualized evidence of
wrongdoing blows a hole in their claim that all the dismissals
are necessary to counter terrorism," it said.
"Instead, evidence suggests widespread abusive and
discriminatory motives behind the purge."
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Toby