No progress on hunger strikes

No progress on hunger strikes

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
No progress on hunger strikes

‘Peace Mothers’ stage a protest in an Ankara jail for hunger strikers. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

As hunger strikes in 67 Turkish prisons enter their 53rd day on Nov. 3, the efforts to end the strikes conitnued on Nov. 2, with Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder holding a meeting with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin.

“We are fighting to draw attention on this issue,” Sırrı Süreyya Önder told reporters after the meeting, while underlining that seven hunger strikers were at critical threshold. “We shared information regarding the conditions of the strikers and the possible consequences. “The justice minister is approaching the issue with high responsibility," Önder told private NTV television after the meeting.

“We don’t consider this as a political problem, but this is a humanity problem,” he added.

Önder noted that a planned rally on Nov. 3 in Diyarbakır in support of the hunger strikes was banned by the Governor’s Office. “If the government supports the liberty of civil politics, other problems can be solved,” he said.

Daily allowances

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry has denied allegations that strikers’ daily food allowances were cut since they began their protest. A member of Parliament’s Human Rights Examination Commission who met with 25 inmates staging hunger strikes in Bolu Prison has contradicted the ministry claims.

“Allegations that the daily allowance of inmates staging hunger strikes had been cut by the General Directorate of Prisons are completely untrue,” the ministry said in a statement on Nov. 2, adding that hunger strikers do not receive their daily allowances but are given salt, honey, lemon, sugar and vitamins regularly.

A main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker, Mahmut Tanal, who was among the parliamentary panel members that visited Bolu F-type and T-type prisons on Nov. 1, said inmates are buying salt, lemon and sugar from prison canteens at their own expense.

“The Justice Ministry is not telling the truth. Their daily food allowance is not being given at the moment. They are buying salt, sugar and lemon from prison canteens with their own resources,” Tanal said Nov. 2, adding that inmates in Bolu T-type Prison have been waiting for B1 vitamins for the last two days.

According to an official document, hunger strikers’ demands to be given sugar, tea, lemon and salt in substitution for a daily food allowance was rejected by the Administration and Monitoring Board of the Bolu F-type Prison. Referring to a 2009 ruling by the Bolu Judge of Execution that refused to allow substitution of other food products for a daily food allowance, the document dated Sept. 27 said, “The Administration and Monitoring Board [of the prison] rejects the inmates’ demand.”

There are 682 hunger strikers in 67 prisons, according to the Justice Ministry. Prisoners are participating in the hunger strike to demand an end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who is serving a life sentence on İmralı island.