Nov 11, 2012

60 days of Hunger Strike; so what's next?

Thousands of residents of the city of Wan take to the streets in support of Kurdish prisoners on hunger strike in Turkish jails. 

Abdulla Hawez*

The recent Hunger Strike by Kurdish prisoners in Turkey has passed 61 days today. The Hunger Strike has first started on 12th of September with Faysal Yaldız, an imprisoned member of parliament of BDP, has announced an open hunger strike. Currently, the number of Hunger Strikers has passed 688 Kurdish prisoners in 76 different jails in all over Turkey. The Hunger Strikers have two demands. First, leasing the imprisoned leader of PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, see his lawyers, which he hasn't seen them for more than 400 days. The second demand is allowing the prisoners to defend themselves in the courts in their mother tongue language; this means permitting Kurds to defend themselves in the courts in Kurdish.
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has earlier declined to accept the strikers' demands, especially the one that related to Öcalan.
It would be quite firm for Turkish Prime Minister to take the two demands for more than a reason. Because of the recent bloody attacks of PKK, Turkish public opinion is not in the side of the strikers. Moreover, the second demand has been in the AK Party's agenda to be done. Now, the AK Party sees that PKK wants to exploit this demand to gain more support; while this demand has been one of various cases that AK Party has tried to boost as part of its opening policy toward Kurds. AK Party assumes that if they accepted the Hunger Strikers demands that would be a victory for PKK, besides other demands will be followed. AK Party knows well that PKK is using this strike as a card to gain more support in the southeastern region of Turkey that is mostly populated by Kurds. Furthermore, the strike hasn't attracted enough attention from the main stream media, so that will make the case less likely to be effective enough to achieve its goals.  
Aside from being pragmatic, in cases such as this hunger strike, Turkish Prime Minister is a stubborn guy that may understand the strike as personal; that's why I don't think he will be responding to the strikers even if they die of hunger. We have many other cases of dying in the Turkish prisons of Hunger starting from 1981 to 1982 to 1996 to 2000 when 30 pensioners died. However, dissimilar than the earlier Hunger Strikes, any dead case may be following by a mass rage in the Kurdish areas as the region is passing through an awakening and Turkey itself is very much involved in the revolution in the neighboring Syria that if the government not going to move faster to boost the right of Kurds it may witness same mass insurgency in its very own lands.      

* Journalist based in the Iraqi Kurdistan

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