10,000 More Prisoners To Join The Kurdish Hunger Strikes In Turkey

Turkish riot police fire water and tear gas as they clash with Kurdish demonstrators during a protest in support of a hunger strike movement by Kurdish prisoners, on November 4, 2012, in Istanbul (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

By Kurd Net, Ekurd.net, 06 November, 2012

ANKARA— Shortly after the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) announced that thousands of more prisoners were to join a collective hunger strike, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç made an open call to all prisoners to end the strike.

On Sunday BDP deputy Sabahat Tuncel said 10,000 more prisoners currently held in the country’s prisons for various crimes, including membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iranian offshoot, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), would join the hunger strike on Monday.

Around 700 Kurdish prisoners began the hunger strike on September 12, with a host of demands including the release of the Kurdish (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan and demanding the right to receive an education in their mother tongue, Kurdish, and the right to address courts in Kurdish.

Protest in support of Kurdish hunger strikers in Berlin. Image by Thomas Rossi Rassloff via Flickr

Tuncel said on Sunday during a press conference she called after attending an Istanbul demonstration by pro-BDP protestors in support of prisoners on hunger strike, “Ten thousand more prisoners are going to join the hunger strike on Monday [Nov. 5] without a time limit or the possibility of backpedaling [before their demands are met by the government].”

“We are calling [on the government] to bring an end to oppression. Who can approve of the isolation [in prison] of the leader of a people? Who can defend barriers to the right to defend oneself and receive an education in the mother tongue?” Tuncel asked, adding that the BDP would continue to stand by the prisoners on the hunger strike. “The BDP supports the Kurdish people, the fraternity of peoples and freedoms. We [BDP deputies] are in Parliament for our people.”

The response to Tuncel’s challenge came from Arınç on Monday who said Turkey was expecting hunger strikers to end their protest. “Please end the hunger strike. Turkey is expecting you to end the strike. You have wives, families and people who love you. The government will do what is necessary in response to your demands forwarded to our government. Turkey has a Parliament to evaluate all rightful demands,” the deputy prime minister stated, addressing the prisoners.

On Sunday, Tuncel also commented on the remarks of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who said last week that the hunger strike would not result in the release of Öcalan from prison. “Don’t turn this strike into blackmail,” the prime minister said on Nov. 3, adding that the Turkish people would not agree to the terrorist leader’s release and that they instead favor bringing back the death penalty. Responding to the prime minister, Tuncel said: “Our friends on the hunger strike are not blackmailing anyone. It is you [Erdoğan] who are blackmailing us.”

Thousands of residents of the city of Wan take to the streets in support of Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike in Turkish jails

The announcement for an expanded hunger strike came from Deniz Kaya, lawyer for several PKK prisoners, who released a statement on Sunday. Similarly, Kaya said 10,000 more PKK and PJAK prisoners were to join the hunger strike. “Starting Monday [Nov. 5], all our prisoner friends except the old, the sick and children will join the hunger strike. The full responsibility [for possible sickness or death] will belong to Prime Minister Erdoğan and his government if our demands are not met,” read Kaya’s statement.

The statement also said the hunger strike is aimed to “end the oppression of the Kurdish people.” “We want the oppression against our people to end. Who can eliminate or ignore our right to defend and receive an education in the mother tongue? Who can consider the isolation and torture of the leader of a people? Who can stand in the way of negotiations [by state authorities] with our leader,www.ekurd.net which is the key to the coexistence of the two peoples and the restoration of peace? We are making a call to anyone who calls himself a human being to respond to these questions. The demands we are giving voice to are aimed at the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] government. The hunger strike will continue with new prisoners joining until we have our demands met [by the government],” added the statement.

Also on Monday, the Ministry of Justice announced that they learned about new prisoners joining the hunger strike from the Turkish media and that they do not have any other information on the issue.

BDP Co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş also spoke to the media on Sunday and said he thinks prisoners will give up the hunger strike if the AK Party government agrees to improve the prison conditions of Öcalan. BDP officials have been meeting with striking prisoners for a while. “We have received the impression from the prisoners we have talked to so far that they intend to give up the hunger strike if the government allows regular meetings [between relatives, lawyers, etc.] with Öcalan,” he stated. He also said many of the strikers are in critical condition and that the government has to make a quick decision to meet their needs

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