Kurdish activist: 'I'm on hunger strike for freedom'

Kurdish activist Iman Sis. Photo via Morning Star Online.

Leyla Guven, a member of Turkey’s parliament for the left-wing, Kurdish-led People’s Democratic party (HDP), launched an indefinite hunger strike on November 7 from Amed Prison, where she was held jailed by Turkey’s regime. Her demand is for an end to the isolation of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Jailed by Turkey since 1999, Ocalan is the recognised leader of the Kurdish liberation movement. Since 2011, his lawyers have been unable to met with him.

Guven’s hunger strike, which entered its 81st day on February 6, has sparked protests by Kurdish communities and their supporters around the world — and many solidarity hunger strikes. Guven was released by the regime from detention on January 25, but her hunger strike has continued.

One such hunger striker who has joined Guven is Iman Sis, a Kurdish activist living in Wales who had been on hunger strike for 52 days on February 6. He spoke to Steve Sweeney and Mark Campbell from Britain’s Morning Star about his actions.

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I am from Elbistan, in Maras (Turkey). I’m 32 years of age and have worked in the hospitality trade for years. I came to Britain in 2004. I moved to Wales in 2014. I’ve been a Kurdish rights activist since I arrived in the UK.

I have always been aware of the situation of the Kurds in Turkey, but became more politically aware of the situation of the Kurds when I was 15 at school by meeting some Kurdish university students in Balikkesir.

Kurdish struggle

I was preparing for university and met them at that time. They spoke to us about the history of the Kurdish struggle and the PKK. We listened and were influenced strongly.

I faced continuous discrimination in Turkey as a result of my Kurdishness and decided to leave the country. My brother joined the PKK at the time. I came to Britain and began to study and read about Kurdish history and the PKK’s struggle.

I decided to start my hunger strike around the time of Leyla Guven’s hunger strike; she massively inspired me. I read Abdullah Ocalan a lot and he is my political leader and my political will.

I want the same thing that Leyla Guven wants and all Kurdish people want: to break the isolation of our leader.

Because it was he who began the struggle for Kurdish identity and Kurdish freedom, it was he who brought the Kurds out of the darkness of forced assimilation policies of the Turkish fascist regime.

How can we, as Kurds, be free while he is isolated on a prison island in the middle of the Bosphorus Sea?

My demands are the same as Guven’s, to break the isolation of our leader Apo [as Ocalan is known].

The Turkish government are breaking their own laws that they have signed in international treaties to allow the lawyers and legal representatives of prisoners to visit their clients in jail.

In regards to Mehmet Ocalan (Ocalan’s brother), the Turkish state have used him. They gave him a very short notice and thought that by sending him to Imrali that Guven would stop her hunger strike, then on day 67 and gaining international attention and solidarity.

On the same night, they sent lawyers to Guven hoping that she would break her hunger strike. It was an obvious plot by the Turkish fascist regime to stop the hunger strike.

The release of Guven was part of the same plot to break the hunger strike. As Guven said herself, that she did not begin her hunger strike to gain her own release but to stop the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan.

It is not only the fact that Ocalan is the Kurdish leader but he is a critical leader in the Middle East to develop peace and democracy.

This is evident in the fact that Ocalan’s ideas and philosophy is shaping northern Syria at the moment with his philosophy of democratic nation which is being implemented and practised presently in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.

His ideas and philosophy are beneficial to more than just Kurdish people. His ideas of women’s freedom are freeing women in the Middle East and his ideas of radical ecology and grassroots representation are benefiting all people, not just Kurds.

A lot has been done already by comrades and friends here in Wales, especially from [left-nationalist party] Plaid Cymru and more specifically the youth movement within Plaid Cymru.

I have been contacted and remain in constant contact with Liz Saville Roberts MP, of Plaid Cymru, who has been extremely supportive, together with Chris Stephens of the Scottish National Party.

Look at what [Irish republican party] Sinn Fein has done. They have led with all their networks, publications and media channels to support our hunger strike. Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson went to Diyarbakir to support Guven and was jostled by the Turkish army outside Diyarbakir Prison.

She then came back to the European Parliament and raised Guven and the hunger strikes in the European Parliament. This is what other political parties can do to show their solidarity with Leyla Guven and the hunger strikers.

Guven is an elected MP. Where are all the parliamentarians in solidarity with their parliamentary colleagues?

As you read this today, I will have been on this historic hunger strike for 52 days. Firstly, I want to state I am feeling strong, determined, in high morale and focused. Of course, I have physical symptoms such as I have lost 11kg of weight, my kidneys are painful, I have a sensitivity to light and smell.

I have regular headaches etc, but these physical symptoms are nothing to my strength and pride in taking part in this hunger strike that will without any hesitation break the isolation of our leader Abdullah Ocalan. I feel free. I am, without any hesitation prepared to die for this cause.

I drink one glass of fresh lemon drink with three spoonfuls of sugar and two spoonfuls of salt. Lemon is good to balance your blood pressure. I take one tablet of B1 vitamin and one tablet of B12 vitamin daily. I drink sugary water three times a day.

I want the British people to raise their voices louder to protest against the British government’s relationship with Turkey that turns a blind eye to the atrocities being perpetrated against the Kurds and sells weapons to Turkey that are used against my people.

I want the British people to pressure the British government to stop arms sales to Turkey and support the Kurdish people’s struggle against the fascism of the Turkish state and Daesh [ISIS] in Syria.

Kurdish people are one of the oldest communities in history. However, since after 1923 with the intervention of imperialist states and particularly by the Turkish state to the Middle East, their ethnic identity was denied and they were subject to massacres.

The PKK was established 1978 under Ocalan’s leadership and he has continued to lead the Kurdish freedom struggle for 40 years.

Solitary confinement

Ocalan has been striving for a free society for many years. He has been in solitary confinement since 1999 and from 2011 until recently, not allowed visitors.

Today is described as the age of democracy, freedom and human rights and yet Ocalan’s basic human rights are abused. His lawyers are denied any type of contact with him, but despite these conditions of torture the European governments remain silent.

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has yet to meet their criteria or serve their duties. This all proves that even today, Kurds are still not only denied their ethnic status, but also counted as not being worthwhile humans and all fundamental human rights are denied.

For all the reasons above, 300 Kurdish people worldwide have started an indefinite hunger strike.

Our only demands — which will ultimately cause the Turkish state to discontinue the killings and massacres committed every day in Turkey and in Syria/Rojava — are that Kurdish fundamental human rights be recognised and the total isolation of Abdullah Ocalan be lifted immediately.