It was the 20th day of her protest, on November 28, when Nuriye Gülmen was surprised to have not been arrested that day. Until then she and those supporting her were immediately taken into custody by the police every time they tried to protest on what is one of the busiest streets of Ankara.
Nuriye Gülmen, a leftist academician from the Comparative Literature Department of Eskişehir Ozmangazi University is protesting against her dismissal during the purges that followed the coup attempt in July. The number of people dismissed from public institutions has exceeded 100.000, most of them used to work in the ministries of education, interior and justice. Universities, which traditionally used to be sanctuaries for many leftist intellectuals have also been targeted heavily.
The news are full with stories of dismissed teachers selling fruit in the local market or working in construction to make a living. More and more stories begin to surface of people, who have committed suicide after they lost their jobs and were unable to pay off debts or medical bills.
The government justifies these purges as a necessary measure to cleanse state institutions from members of the Gülen movement, which the government believes to be the driving force behind the coup. However critics have pointed out that many of the people targeted do not even seem to have a connection to the Gülen movement, but are known as being critical of the government. And even for those who might have a Gülenist connection, it appears unlikely that the huge number of people dismissed were actually involved in the coup.
The case of Nuriye Gülmen therefore embodies a situation where almost anybody can be targeted by the authorities, without any recourse to justice. For the government this has the added value that many positions in state institutions become newly available and that they might be offered to their own supporters.
After the police left the street without taking anybody into custody, Gülmen said, “I am so happy right now as if I had already returned back to my work. People come here, and can express their feelings without being taken into custody. There is a growing crowd around us.” Yet she and her friends were again taken into custody yesterday for setting up a table on the street to collect signatures. Nuriye Gülmen has put up five requests on her blog, among them lifting the state of emergency and reinstating those unjustly dismissed from their jobs.