Gül dismayed by MPs joining hunger strikes

Gül dismayed by MPs joining hunger strikes

Gül dismayed by MPs joining hunger strikes

In a support to the ongoing hunger strikes in many prisons, independent deputy Zana goes on a strike with saying she is hopeful for a solution. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The politicians’ move to join ongoing strikes makes President Gül uneasy as a bill for the defense in mother tongues at courts - one of the demands of strikers’ - has been passed by a panel
In support for the ongoing hunger strikes in many prisons, independent deputy Zana goes on a strike saying she is hopeful for a solution.

resident Abdullah Gül has voiced his discontent over politicians’ participation in the ongoing hunger strikes, as independent deputy Leyla Zana joined the strike Nov. 14. “I disapprove of lawmakers’ and mayors’ participation in the hunger strikes. It is clearly unacceptable that those who should endeavor for a resolution are opting into the hunger strikes. I hope everybody will put an end to this issue,” Gül told reporters Nov. 15 while speaking at a joint press conference following talks with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.

Gül was referring to lawmakers’ participation in ongoing hunger strikes that began Sept. 12. Some 700 inmates are staging a collective hunger strike in Turkey’s 67 prisons, demanding an end to the isolation of convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan. Öcalan’s lawyers have not been allowed on İmralı Island, where he is being held, for the last 15 months. The protesters also demand that restrictions be lifted on the use of their mother tongue, Kurdish, in courts and education facilities. Seven lawmakers and a mayor from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) began indefinite hunger strikes in Diyarbakır over the weekend.

Bill on defense in mother tongue passed

Meanwhile, a legal arrangement paving the way for legalizing Kurdish language defense in courts - one of the three key demands by the hunger strikers - was recently approved.

Speaking during debates at the commission, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said that the definition of “defense in one’s mother tongue” would be inadequate in representing the legal arrangement, particularly for those who can speak Turkish. “We chose the definition of ‘defense in a language in which one states that he will better express himself.’ This definition is broader than mother tongue.”

Zana, a symbolic figure in the Kurdish movement, joined the hunger strike on its 64th day on Nov. 14 from her room in Parliament. She was elected as a deputy in the 2012 elections from the bloc backed by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), but cannot become a party member until 2014 due to a political ban against her. In 2009, the Constitutional Court banned the BDP’s predecessor, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), and the party’s founders – including Zana – from participating in politics for five years. Zana said in June that it was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who could solve the Kurdish issue and that she had never lost her hope that he would do so. “I still hold the same opinion, the prime minister can solve this problem,” she said, speaking to reporters yesterday.

When asked whether she had heard anything from the government since she began her strike, she said: “Until now, there was no call,” adding that, “[Deputy Prime Minister] Bülent Arınç’s remarks are quite humanitarian and positive. However, the demands should be considered before it’s too late. As it gets late more demands are being brought to the agenda and they are increased,” Zana said.

Deeming any polemics on strikes inhumane, Zana said: “A hunger strike is the hardest, the most painful form of dying. You slowly die.” Zana previously urged EU officials not to turn a blind eye to the hunger strikes.

MHP’S Bahçeli asks for intervention for hunger strikes

The government should consider launching a medical intervention into the health of hundreds of prisoners engaged in hunger strikes, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said on Nov. 15.

“Hunger strikers should definitely give up at once. The State of the Republic of Turkey cannot and should not accept a threat under any condition,” Bahçeli said, when asked to comment on independent deputy Leyla Zana beginning a hunger strike Nov. 14.

“However, when there are lives in danger, the political authority should take the entire responsibility and make an intervention which will end such danger by starting necessary health treatments.” Bahçeli noted that what he said was also valid concerning Zana’s case.

Dozens of inmates died in a hunger strike in 2000 that aimed to protest the moving of inmates from dormitories to cells. Some 30 prisoners and two soldiers were also killed when security forces stormed jails in December of that year in an operation to end the protest known as “Return to Life.”