Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey have been on hunger strike for several months and their action is now reaching a critical period when lives could be lost.
The hunger strike began in November 2020 with the participation of inmates from 120 prisons across Turkey. The protest comes in response to worsening human rights violations inside Turkish prisons and in particular the strict isolation imposed upon Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan on Imrali island. The hunger strikers are demanding that the isolation must be ended.
The hunger strikes are organised on a rotating basis with activities continuing right up to the present. So far the hunger strike has been totally snubbed by the Turkish prison authorities and politicians alike. The action has received far too little attention from the media and relevant authorities outside Turkey.
Now lawyers and human rights observers, such as the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD), are warning about the fragile health of prisoners taking part in the repeated hunger strikes, expressing fears that the action is approaching a point when some of them will die.
Lawyers are pointing out that isolation is defined as a form of torture according to international rights conventions and its use is in breach of Turkey’s own constitution.
The hunger strike has highlighted the urgent need to break the deadlock in the peace process. Abdullah Ocalan’s ongoing isolation and maltreatment illustrates all too clearly Turkey’s refusal to start any meaningful negotiations with the Kurds that will resolve the conflict and start a process of reconciliation.
As long as Turkish leaders still believe that they can end the Kurdish issue by suppression and military action, the conflict will inevitably deepen and relations between the Turkish state and the Kurdish people will continue to deteriorate.
Rather than respond humanely to the demands of the hunger strikers, Turkish prison authorities have reportedly punished individual participating prisoners by inflicting harsher penalties.
The Turkish authorities need to respond positively to the demands of the hunger strikers and halt the action before lives are needlessly lost.
Torture and isolation inside Turkish prisons need to be repudiated; the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan needs to come to an immediate end.
Peace in Kurdistan remains convinced that Abdullah Ocalan has an essential role to play in any peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question.
If Turkey seriously wants to achieve a lasting peace it will need to begin meaningful talks at some stage with Kurdish representatives; we believe that this process should begin sooner rather than later. Ocalan’s ongoing isolation is unnecessary and inhumane; it is also an obstacle to peace.
Far too many lives have already been lost during Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds and the death toll tragically continues to rise day after day. Break the deadlock by ending the isolation.
2 August 2021
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid: 07846 666 804 & Melanie Gingell: 07572 430903
Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser; Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Steve Sweeney, journalist, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.