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Two Turkish teachers end hunger strike

Timothy Jones with dpa
January 26, 2018

Two Turkish teachers who stopped eating after being fired from their jobs under a state of emergency have ended their protest. But they said their resistance was not over.

Nuriye Gülmen, Semih Özakca
Image: DW/H. Köylü

Turkish educators Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca said on Friday they were ending a hunger strike that has lasted 324 days.

But they said they would continue to fight against what they dubbed as unjust dismissals during massive purges in Turkey in the wake of a failed coup in 2016.

"We are ending our hunger strike today but our resistance is not over," Gulmen, a former university lecturer, told supporters in the Turkish capital, Ankara, according to Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Failed appeal

The move comes after a government commission set up to review the cases of those fired under Turkey's state of emergency rejected an appeal from the pair.

Gulmen said they would now attempt to regain their jobs through the judicial system.

Gulmen and Ozakca went on hunger strike in March 2017 after losing their jobs and were arrested two months later on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Ozakca was released from custody in October and Gulmen in December.

Read more: Turkey 'terror propaganda' crackdown sees dozens arrested for social media comments

Nuriye Gulmen in bed showing victory sign
Gulmen is severely emaciated following the hunger strikeImage: Getty Images/AFP/A. Altan

Health deterioration

Last week, doctors in Ankara said they were concerned about the health of the two teachers, with Gulmen having dropped from 59 kilograms to a mere 33.8 kilograms (130 pounds to 74.5 pounds) and Ozakca losing 40 kilograms of his original weight of 86 kilograms. Both are suffering from numerous conditions related to their strike.

They lived off only water, sugar, salt and vitamin B during their protest.

More than 150,000 people have lost their jobs in the crackdown, which Ankara says is aimed at supporters of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt.

Gulen, who lives in the US, has denied the charges.

Read more: Turkey axes another 2,700 public workers in post-coup crackdown

tj/msh (Reuters, dpa)