- Special Pages
ANKARA: The Turkish government is under increasing pressure over how to tackle a hunger strike by hundreds of Kurdish prisoners across the country as the protest nears its eighth week and their health deteriorates.
Around 700 detainees at more than 50 prisons are surviving on salted or sweetened water and vitamins alone in a strike that has gained momentum since it began with several dozen detainees last month.
Among the strikers are several leaders of the chief Kurdish party, the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). They are accused of ties to the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has for decades sought autonomy for the Kurds. “The strikers’ situation is deteriorating with every day,” a Human Rights Association (IHD) official said, saying the inmates had been mistreated but without providing details.
He said the government needed to act to bring about an end to the protest, a call that was echoed in the press and by main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who implored the strikers to abandon their action while also addressing the government’s role.
“I am asking the party in power to be more sensitive to these people’s requests,” he was quoted as saying in Friday’s English-language Hurriyet Daily News.
Several dozen Kurdish detainees began the strike on September 12, the anniversary of a military coup in 1980, with a host of demands including the release of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and an end to Kurdish language restrictions.
With the pressure on, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin paid an unexpected visit Wednesday, on the eve of EidAl Adha, to an Ankara prison where strikers are being held and called on them to halt their action. “For the well-being of your body, your health, your families: give up this action,” he said.
He said the government was listening to the strikers and that it could allow Kurds appearing in court to have the right to defend themselves.