Turkey: 700 Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike

Thousands have held demonstrations in Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir over the past month to show solidarity with Kurdish political prisoners who have been on hunger strike in Turkey. About 70 Kurdish prisoners started an indefinite hunger strike in prisons across the country on Sept. 12. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds more prisoners have joined them, with the total refusing food now standing at 715. Their demands include greater cultural and political rights for Trukey’s Kurds, the country’s largest ethnic minority that now numbers some 20 million. Most of the strikers are supporters of the outlawed Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), the so-called “urban branch” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is labelled a “terrorist organization.” They come from a wide range of backgrounds: journalists, students, teachers, professionals, lawyers, town mayors, and even two elected members of parliament. The strikers’ first demand is the “right to defense in Kurdish”—that is, the ability to give their testimony in Turkish courts in their native tongue. The Turkish government is refusing to consider their demands, and has repeatedly unleahsed repression against protesters marching in support of the hunger strikers.

On Sept. 28, in the eastern city of Batman, a member of the city council from the  pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Emanet Eneş, was shot in the head and gravely wounded when police attacked a demonstration in support of the strikers. Many of the strikers have been imprisoned without trial, while others are serving long terms for carrying out nonviolent political activities. Kurdish prisoners are subjected to lengthy solitary confinement, sudden night raids, and even torture, according to rights groups. The Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD), has received reports that the hunger strikers have been beaten, isolated and denied vitamin B1, salt and sugar water. (Hurriyet Daily News, Nov. 7; In Defence of Marxism, Foreign Policy, Nov. 6; Al Jazeera, Nov. 5)

See our last post on the Kurdish struggle.