Kurdistan: Hunger strike for Abdullah Öcalan begins

Hunger strikers begin their fast for Öcalan in Diyarbakır on September 5.

A hunger strike was launched in Turkey’s Kurdish capital Diyarbakır on September 5 by politicians and activists demanding a meeting with jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Öcalan, the historic leader of the PKK that launched an armed struggle for Kurdish freedom in 1984, has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999. He is held in solitary confinement and denied visitors.

Kurdish Question said: “50 politicians, activists and artists launched the hunger strike, which will continue until a meeting with Öcalan is permitted by the Turkish government, in the pro-autonomy Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) headquarters.

“Representatives from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), DBP, Peoples' Democratic Congress (HDK), Free Women’s Congress (KJA) and the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) started the action, which aims to ‘break the isolation on Öcalan imposed by the Turkish state and AKP government’.”

The hunger strikers stood in front of banners reading “Our leader’s freedom is our freedom” and “We are concerned about Öcalan’s health and safety”.

DBP co-chair Sebahat Tuncel said that Öcalan’s supporters had not had direct contact with him since April 5 last year.

“Despite his 18 year isolation, Mr Öcalan has been making great efforts for the democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question, the democratisation of Turkey and bringing peace to the people of Kurdistan and Turkey,” Tuncel said.

A dialogue process had been underway from 2013 between the PKK, other Kurdish representatives and the Turkish state, until the Turkish state unilaterally ended the process last year. Turkey has since escalated savage attacks on Kurdish areas.

The HDP and other Kurdish parties have been calling for a meeting with Öcalan since the fighting restarted last July. “We have made every political, legal, diplomatic and humane effort to establish communication with Öcalan for the past 510 days, and decided to begin the hunger strike when all of these efforts failed,” Tuncel said.

“The state failed to reply to the declaration we made on August 31, so our indefinite, irreversible hunger strike will continue until Öcalan’s lawyers, family members or the political delegation meet with him.”

A 68 day hunger strike by Kurdish political prisoners and representatives at the end of 2012 had helped opened the path for the peace process, Kurdish Question said. Kurdish commentators said this hunger-strike also aims to pressure the Turkish government into returning to negotiations.

In one of the biggest signature campaigns in history, more than 10 million people have signed a petition calling for freedom for Öcalan, Kurdish Question said.

On September 7, another hunger strike, also calling for an end to Öcalan’s isolation was launched in the Rojava city of Qamishli, Aryen News reported.

Previously, on August 23, five leaders of the Shengal Diaspora Assembly began an indefinite hunger strike in Strasbourg, calling for an end to Öcalan’s isolation and for international recognition of the Êzîdî people’s self-administration in Shengal. Firat News Agency reported on September 8 that, 17 days into their fast, the health of the hunger strikers was deteriorating.

On September 15, political prisoners in Turkey and Kurdistan will begin an indefinite hunger strike for Öcalan, Jinha Women’s News Agency reported on September 8.

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