Government urged to act on ongoing hunger strike in jails

Government urged to act on ongoing hunger strike in jails

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Government urged to act on ongoing hunger strike in jails

Relatives, friends and supporters of Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) suspects stage a protest as the supects are brought to the couthouse for a hearing. DHA photo

A jailed lawmaker and a jailed mayor, both elected from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) have joined hundreds of prisoners that have been on an indefinite hunger strike for over a month, with most detained as part of the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) probe.

“I couldn’t have remained silent in the face of the bodies of our friends, who have been on an indefinite hunger strike since Sept. 12, shrinking each day,” Faysal Sarıyıldız, Şırnak deputy of the BDP said in a written statement released Oct. 18 through his advisor. Sarıyıldız is currently under arrest in Diyarbakır.

Like other prisoners, Sarıyıldız demanded an end to the isolation of convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence on İmralı Island in the Marmara Sea. Sarıyıldız also called for an end to restrictions on the use of Kurdish in public zones, specifically allowing defendants the right to defense in Kurdish during their trials.

Öcalan’s lawyers have not been allowed on İmralı Island for the last 14 months. Lawyers last met with Öcalan on Oct. 12, 2011. His brother Mehmet Öcalan met with him twice over the past year, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin previously revealed.
Van Mayor Bekir Kaya, who was detained June 7 as part of the ongoing KCK probe, also joined the hunger strike on Oct. 18, his lawyers announced. The KCK is the alleged urban wing of the PKK.

Critical threshold

The 63 prisoners who began an indefinite hunger strike on Sept. 12 are now listed under a life-threatening situation, secretary-general of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Bayazıt İlhan has said.

“We have information that the hunger-strike participants are not taking a vitamin supplement to prevent irreparable neurologic sequels. Those on hunger strike have come to a life-threatening stage [health wise] that may lead to permanent damages,” İlhan said Oct. 18.

The Justice Ministry, meanwhile, announced Oct. 19 that all prisoners staging a hunger strike are being examined medically and are periodically being issued vitamins.

The TTB on Oct. 15 asked for an appointment on the issue from the Justice Ministry, but said they have yet to receive a response to their request.

“Taking the long holiday [Eid-al-Adha] and those prisoners who have approached the critical threshold into consideration, urgent steps must be taken to prevent irreparable losses,” İlhan said.

‘Easing Öcalan’s isolation is the sole solution’

BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said prisoners would end their hunger strike only if Öcalan’s isolation is eased.

“Whoever speaks on a solution [for the Kurdish issue] and says ‘good things will happen,’ their approach on hunger strikes will be a litmus test. If good things will happen, then the demands of the hunger strikers are clear,” Demirtaş told reporters in Diyarbakır on Oct. 19.

Demirtaş called on President Abdullah Gül not to remain indifferent over the issue, but stressed that prisoners would end their hunger strike only if Öcalan makes such a call.

There is currently no accurate data on the political party membership status of those on hunger strike, yet it is estimated that more than a dozen of them are members of the BDP or the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP).

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Diyarbakır deputy Galip Ensarioğlu said that they cannot turn a blind eye to the prisoners on hunger strike and called on the government to take efforts to convince the prisoners to give up their hunger strike “before a humanitarian tragedy occurs.”

“This does not mean all of their demands will be met, but we have to do something for these people,” Ensarioğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“There’s not a government that remains totally indifferent to this issue. A negotiation process focusing a solution may soon start. But above all, we should take some steps [regarding hunger strikes],”
Ensarioğlu said, recalling that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said a new negotiation process with Öcalan could be launched.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu, meanwhile appealed to the Parliament’s Human Rights Examination Commission to visit and meet with the prisoners staging hunger strikes. “This is not the problem of a single party. Parliament should take responsibility on this issue,” Tanrıkulu told the Daily News.