Civil Society in the Penal System (CISST) advocacy coordinator Berivan Korkut said that ongoing hunger strikes in prisons were twice as risky during the pandemic compared to previous strikes, and called on authorities to engage in dialogue in order to resolve the issue.
An indefinite rotating hunger strike was launched on 27 November by political prisoners in Turkey to protest violations in prisons and the isolation imposed on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been incarcerated in the İmralı F-type High Security Prison for 21 years.
CISST Advocacy Coordinator Berivan Korkut commented on the ongoing hunger strike on its 38th day.
A year of isolation
Stating that prisoners’ rights were suspended during the pandemic, Korkut said her association had made applications regarding the issue several times. According to the Mesopotamia Agency’s (MA) report, Korkut said that the prisoners were not allowed to leave their wards since the first months of the pandemic, negatively affecting prisoners and their psychological and physical health. “It is reasonable to take precautions against the outbreak. However, when doing so, prisoners rights should be considered. The isolation of the prisoners reveals everything. We know that there are prisoners that are not allowed to go out of their wards. Even the blocking of prisoners’ daily activities are affecting them in higly negative ways”.
Twice as risky
Saying that there were limited means of communication with prisoners, Korkut stated that prisoners communicated via letters.
The CISST coordinator said there were serious concerns regarding the hunger strikes. “Unlike previous strikes, these were launched during the pandemic. They are being undertaken amid pandemic conditions”.
Korkut said health professionals drew attention to the importance of the immune system during the pandemic, and said this hunger strike was twice as risky compared to previous strikes.
Appeal for dialogue
“Many people have lost their lives due to hunger strikes in prisons”, Korkut said. “Hunger strikes have been a method used too often since the 1980s. But we witnessed that when a dialogue is established, problems can be solved. We demand a dialogue, so that current problems can be solved. We demand a solution before someone loses their life or becomes permanently disabled”.
The strike is on its 38th day
Prisoners in Turkey had announced the beginning of their hunger strike via the weekly phone calls they made with their families on 27 November.
Each prisoner would take turns to go on a five-day hunger strike until their demands are met.
Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Çağlar Demirel, who is currently imprisoned in Kocaeli Kandıra F-type High Security Prison, also launched a hunger strike.
Following the announcement of the hunger strikes, Kandıra F-type High Security Prison’s administration raided the wards of several political prisoners, including those belonging to Demirel and former HDP members and executives.
It was also revealed that prisoners who were on hunger strike have been subjected to mistreatment in various prisons in Turkey.