By Jennifer Thompson
Thousands of Kurdish prisoners of war have been on a hunger strike in prisons across Turkey. Hundreds more Kurds are on hunger strikes in cities around the world to support the prisoners — members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting an 11-year battle for independence or autonomy in south-east Turkey .
Between 8000 and 10,000 people in 22 Turkish jails have joined the hunger strike, the Human Rights Association of Turkey said. The prisoners started the hunger strike on July 14 to demand that the Turkish government in Ankara open talks to end the war. They take turns refusing food for 10 days in a row.
The demands of the strike on the Turkish government are:
- a dialogue to reach a political solution;
- Geneva Convention regulations covering combatants to be observed and enforced in Kurdistan;
- an end to killing of civilians, summary executions, torture in prisons and the burning of villages;
- war prisoners in jails to be classified as POWs;
- an end to military operations designed to destroy the Kurdish people;
- monitoring of the war in Kurdistan and prison conditions under the auspices of the UN and the Red Cross.
In Istanbul, families of prisoners, themselves on hunger strike, rallied on July 23, marching to the headquarters of the supportive United Socialist Party (BSP). Hunger strikes by prisoners' families in other parts of Turkey were so well supported that offices of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (began turning people away for lack of space.
On July 24, Fesih Beyazcicek, part of the 170-strong hunger strike in Yozgurt prison, died. According to fellow prisoners, he died because medical aid had been refused to him for too long.
About 200 supporters of the Islamist Welfare Party protested on August 10 at the party's decision to allow police to detain 34 Kurdish hunger strikers at its Istanbul provincial headquarters.
The pro-Kurdish Turkish newspaper Yeni Politika said hundreds of supporters in Europe and the US were also on sympathy hunger strikes. Kurds in Australia have also joined.
In Paris, the 300 hunger strikers were forced to move from the Kurdish community centre to the Church of St Eustache, which police attacked, blocking all the exits. Several hundred supporters of the strike clashed with police, and a journalist was wounded.
The London hunger strike was also the target of provocations by the British police.
A Kurdish woman on a hunger strike was killed in a police attack in Berlin on July 27. Gulnaz Bagiztani left five children. Police claimed the group attacked were PKK supporters and responsible for the fire-bombing of Turkish properties. Large numbers of Kurds were detained on similar charges by police in Frankfurt and Stuttgart.
The Kurd-A news agency reported a massive funeral procession to honour Bagiztani on August 1. Around 35,000 people marched through Berlin waving flags of the ERNK and pictures of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.