A jailed former teacher held in a women’s prison in Ankara is in critical condition nine months into her hunger fast to protest her unfair trial and inhumane treatment in prison, her lawyers said this week.
Sibel Balaç now weighs just 39 kg, has lost sensation in her feet and has developed mouth legions, the prisoner’s lawyers said. After being taken to hospital for medical tests on 6 September, Balaç has already lost 2 kg due to fatigue in the last week, Turkish news site Artı Gerçek quoted Balaç’s lawyers as saying.
Balaç lost her job as a teacher during the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s mass purge in the aftermath of the failed 16 July, 2016 coup attempt.
Some 150,000 public officials were dismissed from their jobs in a series of purges after the coup attempt. The AKP said the dismissed officials were members of the Gülen religious movement, which was blamed for carrying out the botched coup, or other outlawed groups.
But critics say the AKP used the coup attempt as a pretext to quash dissent and re-engineer public institutions staffed with its own supporters.
Balaç was among the dismissed public servants who staged protests on Ankara’s Yüksel Street to demand their jobs back. In 2018, she was handed an eight-year prison sentence on terrorism charges.
The former teacher began the hunger strike on 29 December, 2021 to demand a fair trial, alongside another prisoner, Gökhan Yıldırım.
Balaç’s lawyers called for her immediate release due to poor health when she was taken to hospital for tests last week. The test results are expected on Wednesday.
“We expect our client to be released as soon as these procedures are complete,” Balaç’s lawyers said. “Sibel cannot remain in such unhygienic conditions as this process goes on. Thus, we expect her immediate release.”