Turkey: Leyla Güven ends hunger strike

Issue 
Leyla Guven, pictured on day 200 of her hunger strike. Photo: ANF English.

Peoples Democratic Party MP, Leyla Güven ended her 200-day hunger strike on May 26. Güven had been consuming only sugar and salt solutions and vitamins.

Güven, a member of the Turkish parliament, began her hunger strike in prison. She was arrested for criticising the Turkish invasion of Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish area of northern Syria.

Güven's hunger strike was a protest against the isolation of imprisoned PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned since 1999 and has not been allowed visitors, including family members and lawyers, for several years.

Güven, like other campaigners for democracy and Kurdish rights, viewed Öcalan’s isolation as an obstacle to peace.

Öcalan founded the PKK, which waged a decades-long war for the rights of the oppressed Kurdish people. However, he also sought a peaceful solution.

Öcalan had been engaged in negotiations with the Turkish government from prison, until Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ended negotiations and renewed the war against the Kurds and the repression of democratic forces in Turkey.

Güven was released from prison when her health deteriorated, but she continued her hunger strike outside. Many others, both in prison and outside, followed her example. Nine of them died. Kurds in Turkey and around the world held demonstrations in support of the hunger strikers.

The Turkish government eventually allowed Öcalan to meet his lawyers. After the second meeting the lawyers reported that Öcalan had asked for the hunger strike to be called off, to avoid further loss of life.

Güven said that Öcalan's ability to meet his lawyers and issue a statement was a victory and had broken his isolation. "Hearing Öcalan's voice outside is very important with regards to Turkey's democratisation and peace in the Middle East", she said.

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