Turkish PM Erdoğan delays hopes for strikers

Turkish PM Erdoğan delays hopes for strikers

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM Erdoğan delays hopes for strikers

PM Erdoğan gets honorary doctorate from an university named afterhim. DHA photo

The government has announced no concrete action on hunger strikes, now in their 62nd day, even though the justice minister had said action would be taken when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returned from abroad.

Erdoğan arrived in Turkey late on Nov. 10 but called the hunger strikes and participation of lawmakers from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) “blackmail,” and vowed that the government would not bow to such blackmail.

The BDP, meanwhile, appears to be burning its bridges gradually, as BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş announced yesterday that they would no longer seek dialogue with the government.

“We have held talks dozens of times in order to stop deaths. But from now on, the government has to seek dialogue, if somebody will establish dialogue, because [members of] the BDP and DTK [Democratic Society Congress, a Kurdish umbrella group] have joined the hunger strike. That’s why the government should seek dialogue with inmates behind bars,” Demirtaş said in Diyarbakır.

Lawmakers on strike

Demirtaş was referring to seven lawmakers, including BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who joined the hunger strikes over the weekend in protest of the government’s attitude toward the strikes.

Some 700 inmates are staging hunger strikes in 67 Turkish 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 for the last 15 months. The protesters also demand mother-tongue education and that restrictions on the use of their mother tongue, Kurdish, in courts be lifted.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said Nov. 8 that a legal arrangement paving the way for the use of one’s mother tongue in court – one of the three key demands of the hunger strikers – will be sent to Parliament as soon as Erdoğan returned from abroad. However, there has been no development regarding the issue since Erdoğan returned home late Nov. 10.

BDP deputy parliamentary group chair İdris Baluken said yesterday that they did not “close their doors entirely,” but the government should meet with inmates staging hunger strikes. “We do not say [our doors are] entirely closed. The BDP will not request an appointment. From now on, if the government wishes to take further steps regarding the issue, if it wants to resolve it, it [the government] will meet our friends in prisons.”

PEN delegation visits president

Vercİhan Zİflİoğlu / Hürriyet Daily News

PEN International Writers Association representatives are to visit President Abdullah Gül today to highlight critical issues such as ongoing hunger strikes, imprisoned journalists and human rights violations.

“We think it is important to publicize the anti-democratic activities in our country to the world,” PEN Turkey head Tarık Günersel told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that they would conduct the visit with a delegation of 20 people. “The PEN delegation will come to Turkey with the demand of freedom of expression as a sign of solidarity with arrested and oppressed writers and journalists,” he said.