A crowd of people, young and old, is once again filling Taksim Square, the symbol of the Gezi Park revolution and the theater of repression. “Long live our cause and our resistance,” they sang loudly while hoisting signs that read, “We want our work back” and “Illegal government.” Police officers remain on the sidelines, on the edges of the square.
The protest is peaceful but firm. Some display photos of Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Özakça, fired public employees who have become a symbol of the struggle against oppression. “Give him his job back,” they chant. “You are not alone.” Turkey is mobilizing for them. For weeks, spontaneous demonstrations continue in major cities in the country.
Nuriye was a university professor, and Semih taught at an elementary school. Both were dismissed, like 138,147 other officials, teachers and scholars, during the purges initiated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the failed coup July 15, 2016. The two teachers were among the first to protest, standing on Yuksel, a small street in the center of Ankara, to defend their rights. “Nuriye was arrested 15 times, and 15 times she returned to the streets to demand that the government give her job back,” says the Turkish journalist Günes Seferoglu. On the 60th day of protests, they both began a hunger strike. “At that point they became the symbol of resistance. Their actions gave strength to thousands of others who have begun to follow them to the streets.”