Hunger strikers protest war in Kurdistan

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Hunger strikers protest war in Kurdistan

By Kerryn Williams
and Arty Titiz

MELBOURNE — On November 9, Kurdish women here began a hunger strike on the steps of Parliament House to protest against the war on the Kurdish people by the Turkish military. The action follows hunger strikes initiated by the Free Women's Association of Kurdistan (YAJK) in Frankfurt, Cologne, Mannheim, Stuttgart, the Hague and London.

The protest actions were also in response to attempts to jam the Kurdish Television satellite station MED TV and recent raids on Kurdish organisations in Turkey. More than 500 people have been detained as a result of these raids.

YAJK has expressed outrage at the attempted assassination of the president of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, on October 9.

YAJK has drawn attention to the Kurdish guerillas killed by German-made chemical weapons, and expressed solidarity with the "Saturday Mothers" who sit in silence every Saturday in Ankara to ask for the truth about their "disappeared" relatives. These women are regularly arrested, often dragged along by their hair.

Brutal attacks on prisoners of war in Turkey's prisons have also taken place recently. Attacks on displaced Kurds in Turkish cities have increased.

In response to the latest offensive by the Turkish armed forces, 19 young Kurdish and Turkish political prisoners have burned themselves. Some of these have died and others remain in a critical condition in hospital.

Recent developments have undermined the Turkish state's campaign.

The Italian parliament invited Kurdistan National Liberation Front spokesperson Kani Yilmaz and Abdullah Ocalan to address it. The Russian Duma recently discussed granting Abdullah Ocalan political asylum, and an overwhelming majority of MPs voted in favour.

YAJK, in a statement released for the hunger strike, said: "No power on earth has the right to accuse a people of terrorism when what is really being talked about is a defence of the most minimal human rights, such as the right to live in freedom and dignity".

Tulay Zengin of the Kurdish Association of Victoria told Green Left Weekly, "We want the Turkish government's dirty war in Kurdistan stopped. They have to sit down at the negotiating table."

More than 20 people participated in the three-day hunger strike. Numbers swelled in the evenings as music and dancing kept spirits up.

Throughout the protest, the Kurdish activists were harassed by police. They were forced to move from the Parliament House steps and set up their tent on the footpath.

Despite Melbourne City Council granting permission for the protesters to use this area, sprinklers were turned on, which wet their bedding.

Premier Jeff Kennett walked by without bothering to stop and speak to the hunger strikers. Other passers-by were far more supportive. The action was visited by a range of people, including representatives from the Turkish left and other solidarity and political organisations.

The Australian government did not respond when the protesters asked it to send a message to the Turkish government supporting the call for talks with the Kurdish movement.

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