PEACE IN KURDISTAN CAMPAIGN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Tuesday 2nd April Margaret Owen OBE, lawyer, Patron of Peace in Kurdistan, and Director of Widows Through Peace and Democracy will commence a hunger strike in solidarity with Kurdish hunger strikers across Europe, calling for an end to the unlawful prison conditions of Abdullah Ocalan the jailed Kurdish leader. Owen has been a passionate advocate for Kurdish rights for many years, and now at the age of 86 has decided to take this very significant step.
She says : “I am appalled that the UK government is supporting the Turkish state in its persecution of the Kurdish people, I have visited the Kurdish regions of Turkey and Syria on numerous occasions to conduct trial observations and research projects and have seen the countless injustices with my own eyes. I recently visited Leyla Guven MP, the original hunger striker, who is now critically ill having refused all foods for over 150 days. I feel I must now do the only thing left to me to protest, to try to get some press coverage of what is happening, to shine a light on a very desperate situation for a whole people. Abdullah Ocalan is the true representative of the Kurdish people and an injustice to him is experienced as an injustice to all. That is why his position is so critical to a peaceful political solution to this crisis.”
Abdullah Ocalan was abducted from Nairobi, Kenya, on 15 February 1999 in an international clandestine operation involving the intelligence agencies of Turkey and the US, and is kept in conditions of harsh solitary confinement; he has been forbidden from contacting a lawyer since 2011, and has only been granted two visits since April 2015. The conditions under which Ocalan is held violate not only Turkey’s own law, but also the European Convention on Human rights, which Turkey is obliged to follow as a member of the Council of Europe.
In order to protest these unlawful conditions, then-imprisoned MP of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Leyla Güven began an indefinite hunger strike on 7 November 2018. Since then, more than 8,000 political prisoners across Turkey, and numerous members of the international community in Europe, the UK, North America, and the Middle East have joined Ms. Güven in declaring indefinite hunger strike, with the sole demand of ending the isolation imposed on Ocalan. Many of the hunger strikers are now suffering serious health problems, but refuse medical treatment until the isolation of Ocalan is lifted.
The human rights situation in Turkey has progressively deteriorated since the breakdown of talks for a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict between Kurds and the Turkish state in 2015, at which point the Turkish state began engaging in a policy of brutal repression against its Kurdish population, imposing harsh 24-hour curfews across the south-eastern Kurdistan region and committing countless human rights atrocities.
This situation was greatly exacerbated by the state of emergency which followed the failed coup of July 2016 under which political opposition and trade union activity was largely banned alongside the removal from office of democratically-elected politicians and members of the judiciary on the grounds of suspected affiliation with terrorist activity, and replacing them with individuals loyal to Erdoğan’s AKP.
The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has visited İmralı seven times since 1999. Very few of the improvements they have called for have been implemented. The CPT’s last visit to İmralı was on 28-29 April 2016, and Turkey only gave permission for the publication of the report of this visit in March 2018. The hunger strikers are also demanding that the CPT revisit İmralı Island Prison immediately, as is within their capacity.
In January 2019, the Council of Europe passed a resolution expressing concern regarding the human rights situation in Turkey and the condition of the hunger strikers, as well as calling on Turkey to authorize immediate publication of the CPT’s findings on Ocalan. However, this resolution has been insufficient in pressuring Turkey to budge on the issue of isolation, and the situation is now beyond urgent. The hunger strikers are calling for all possible pressure to be put on Turkey to end the isolation of Ocalan before the situation escalates out of control and there are mass casualties.
Margaret Owen joins three members of the Kurdish community Ali Poyraz, Nahide Zengin and Mehmet Yilmaz at the Kurdish Community Centre at 11 Portland Gardens, Harringay, London N4 1HU to begin the strike.
There will be a public meeting at 7pm at which actress Maxine Peake will express her solidarity and to which the press are cordially invited.
For further information please contact:
Estella Schmid 02075865892
Melanie Gingell 07572430903
Margaret Owen 07770945916
Peace in Kurdistan
Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell
– Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
Patrons: John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans MEP, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, International Coordinator, Green Party of England and Wales; Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Gareth Peirce, Maxine Peake, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Stephen Smellie, Steve Sweeney, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward MEP, Hywel Williams MP.