Should we let the ‘terrorists’ die?

Should we let the ‘terrorists’ die?

In over 60 Turkish prisons across the country, over 680 inmates are currently on hunger strikes, and some are on death fasts. Around 60 inmates went on hunger strike as early as Sept. 12, so it might not be exaggeration or fortune-telling to predict that Turkey must be ready to see body bags coming out of prisons soon.

It is so unfortunate, however, that the prime minister, the government, and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have preferred a policy of total denial. The “Mr. Know-it-all” and “absolute decision-maker” prime minister has issued his verdict: But for one inmate no one is actually on hunger strike in prisons! That’s it.

No one in the government or the AKP dares to say: “Sorry, you might be wrong. There are 683 hunger striking inmates.” That is why, after an inspection at the Bolu prison, Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the AKP deputy heading the parliamentary Human Rights Commission, coyly declared that the inmates reported to be on a death fast for the past 53 days or so appeared to be as healthy as the other inmates. He said the hunger striking inmates were so healthy that he had asked for the opinions of the accompanying doctors as well as the prison doctor, who agreed that the hunger strikers were in very good conditions. He, of course, was implying that hunger strikers were cheating Turkey. After all, did his prime minister not say that only one prisoner was on a death fast?

Talking at a gathering of his AKP on Saturday, without giving any figure, the prime minister changed his denial policy a little bit. He implied during the meeting that there might well be scores of inmates on hunger strike. However, the government has so far maintained the policy of denial. Very much like an ostrich, if we cannot see them, no one will see them. Unfortunately, the government is wrong. In 1996 steps were taken to end the death fasts at the time, after 12 inmates lost their lives. How many inmates should die now before the government takes action this time?

Like any other issue, most likely the prime minister is shaping his policy vis a vis death fasts according to public opinion results. Well, the majority of people would most probably consider death fasters to be members of the separatist gang (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK). Why? Because they demand the right to defense in Kurdish, an improvement in the situation of the gang’s imprisoned chieftain, and recognition of Kurdish as an official language of education. As these are the demands of the gang, these inmates must therefore also belong to the gang. Correct or incorrect, just simple logic! No one is questioning the legitimacy of at least the right to defense in Kurdish, or education in one’s mother tongue…

Thus, most ordinary Turks might say “If they want to die, let the terrorists die.” Should a government always act along with the sentiments of the majority, even if they are just nonsense, inhumane and even genocidal? On the other hand, should a state surrender to demands of terrorists backed up by scores of inmates on death fasts?

Perhaps, rather than a policy of denial, it might be high time to wake up and remember the fundamental tenet of democracy: Compromise…