FOR RELEASE 19/04/2019
Address: Kurdish Community Centre, 119-121 Chepstow Road, Newport, NP19 8BZ
Phone: +44 (0) 7940 108 146
(NEWPORT, WALES) Today local residents and campaigners will take part in a solidarity fast at the Kurdish Community Centre in Newport. This fast is in solidarity with Imam Sis, the 32 year old Kurdish resident of Newport who has reached day 124 of his indefinite, non-alternating hunger strike.
Imam Sis began his hunger strike on 17th November 2018. His condition is rapidly deteriorating. He has been surviving on vitamins, salty water, and lemonade. His hunger strike is widely believed to be the longest in UK history.
Imam Sis is on hunger strike as part of a global campaign. Worldwide, almost ten thousand Kurdish activists and political prisoners are on hunger strike. The hunger strike campaign was initiated on 7th November 2018 by then imprisoned member of the Turkish Parliament, Leyla Güven. Leyla Güven was imprisoned after speaking out against Turkish military assaults on the Syrian region of Afrin.
In Strasbourg, 11 Kurdish activists began their hunger strike on the same day as Imam (17/12/18). On 14th March 2019 three Kurdish activists in London also began an indefinite, non-alternating hunger strike.
The demands of the hunger strikers are
- For Turkey to allow the imprisoned leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), Abdullah Öcalan, access to his lawyers and family. He has been denied access to his lawyers since 2011. Turkey is required under domestic and international law to return Öcalan’s access.
- For the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to re-open its investigation into the prison on Imrali Island (Turkey) where Öcalan is imprisoned.
Campaigners are using the hashtag #Fast4Apo to coordinate their efforts.
On 20th March 2019 Wales, by passing a motion through the Welsh Assembly, Wales became the first country in the world to express support for the hunger strike campaign.
The international campaign for freedom for Öcalan and reconvening peace talks between the Turkish government and the PKK has been supported by the TUC, 15 UK trade unions, Jeremy Corbyn, Plaid Cymru, 50 Nobel Laureates, including 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners, and others. Many believe that freedom for Öcalan is a precondition for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question in Turkey.
A friend of Imam Sis said,
“Since December 17 2018, Imam has consumed nothing but salty water, B vitamin tablets and a single daily glass of homemade lemonade. We are fearful for his life. He is one of hundreds of Kurds around the world on hunger strike in the prisons of Turkey and in the Middle East, Europe and North America joining Leyla Güven, a left wing feminist MP in the Turkish Parliament who began a hunger strike on November 7 2018.”
Adam Price AM, Plaid Cymru leader,
“I would like to say in my name and my party’s that we are in solidarity with the ongoing hunger strikes around the world. My brother and comrade Imam Sis, who is on a hunger strike in Wales, and other hunger strikers continue their protest with a humane and lawful demand to end the isolation imposed upon Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. The Turkish state should take urgent steps for the democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. We must hear the voice of our brothers and sisters on hunger strike and we must amplify them. One person deprived of democracy and human rights is all of us being deprived.”
In a statement on the hunger strike published in The Independent, Imam Sis explained his human rights stance,
“In December 2018, I went on hunger strike at the Kurdish community centre in Newport, after the elected Kurdish MP, former mayor, and women’s activist Leyla Güven began her hunger strike from her prison cell in Turkey in early November last year. She began this protest to break the systematic isolation imposed on imprisoned Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan on Imrali Prison Island.”
“Viewed by millions of people as their leader, Abdullah Öcalan is the chief negotiator on behalf of the Kurdish people in the conflict with the Turkish state. This is a reality that is also accepted by the Turkish state, which has held dialogue processes with Öcalan in the past. On many occasions over decades, Öcalan initiated unilateral ceasefires and peace initiatives. His prison writings, which promote participatory democracy, gender equality and ecology, have laid out comprehensive roadmaps to peace in the region.”
“Since 2011, Öcalan has been banned from receiving visits from his lawyers, a violation of a fundamental human right. Since late spring of 2015, with the collapse of the peace process that he had initiated in 2013, he has been held under total isolation from the outside world. His family is no longer able to visit him. This total isolation amounts to torture under international human rights standards.”
Adam Johannes, a peace campaigner in Wales said,
“The hunger strike demands an end to the isolation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. The leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) has been held in solitary confinement by Turkey for over twenty years in conditions amounting to torture. Mr Öcalan is being denied proper access to visits from his family and lawyers.”
“For decades, Turkey denied Kurds their language, cultural and political rights, even denying there was such a thing as a Kurds calling them ‘Mountain Turks’. That’s why millions of Kurds regard Öcalan as their Nelson Mandela, because he organised a movement to challenge that and defend their identity. We hope Turkey will save the hunger strikers lives as they are only asking Turkey abide by its own laws and international human rights law.”
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS
- Contact Adam on 07940108146 / firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message @KSCCymru. Members of the Kurdish community, local politicians, trade unionists and friends of Imam Sis are available for interview
- The Kurdish Community Centre in Newport will be open between 12.30 – 7.30 pm on Friday 19th April for visitors and interviews. Interviews with Imam will require prior warning as he is fatigued and often asleep. Contact Adam or direct message @KSCCymru to arrange this.
- The Kurdish Community Centre is at 119-121 Chepstow Road, Newport, NP19 8BZ
- During the Newport East by-election campaign Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott met with campaigners to discuss how to support the hunger strikes. After the meeting, Corbyn spoke at a Labour rally mentioning Imam Sis by name and arguing for the importance of Abdullah Öcalan involvement in any peaceful settlement in the Middle East amplifying the calls for lawyers to be allowed to visit Mr Öcalan. In the past, at the Durham Miners’ Gala, Jeremy Corbyn has spoken in support for the campaign to free Abdullah Öcalan.
Facebook event for the fast:
Article by Imam Sis in The Independent:
General information on the hunger strikes campaign:
The trade union led campaign, Freedom For Öcalan:
A good source of English language, Kurdish news, with the hunger strikes and repressive actions of Turkey regularly covered:
Report of Jeremy Corbyn & Diane Abbott meeting with Imam Sis campaign including link to video of Corbyn’s speech later in the day:
An article on a recent rally in Cardiff:
Lloyd Russell-Moyle asking Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP about Imam and the situation of the Kurds in Turkey (02/04/19):
The debate on the situation of the Kurds in Turkey which took place in Westminster Hall (10/04/19):
Briefing on background to Kurdish hunger strikes sent to Labour Assembly Members in the run up to the Senedd motion: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oGqhROPeqlZdRlblhD9JETUQgKlZIGps/
A BBC article from the evening the hunger strikes motion passed in the Welsh Assembly: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-47646773
The full text of the motion, including Conservative Party amendments which were passionately rejected and contested by both Plaid Cymru and Labour Party AMs during the debate: http://record.assembly.wales/OrderPaper/Motions/20-03-2019?type=NDM
A letter on the hunger strike signed published in The Guardian with initial high profile signatories including politicians, trade union leaders and campaigners: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/12/support-for-ocalan-hunger-strikers
The full list of signatories to the statement: https://kurdishhungerstrikestatement.blogspot.com/2019/02/kurdish-hunger-strike-solidarity.html
50 Nobel Laureates including 10 Nobel Peace Prize Winners statement in support of hunger strikers: http://www.freeocalan.org/news/english/50-nobel-laureates-call-for-end-of-isolation