The indefinite-alternating hunger strike that was launched in prisons on 27 November – with the demand to end the prison isolation conditions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and theviolations of rights that were taking place in prisons in Turkey – continued to its 166th day.
The Hunger Strike Monitoring Committee, formed by a group of legal and medical experts and human rights defenders to closely follow the situation of the prison hunger strike, on Tuesday discussed their latest report’s findings in a press conference in Istanbul, MA reports.
The Committee stated that it had interviewed 50 prisoners from 12 prisons, investigated the total number of prisoners engaged in the hunger strike and monitored violations of rights during the pandemic alongside the hunger striking prisoners’ demands, MA reported.
The Human Rights Association (IHD) İstanbul Branch, the Lawyers Association for Freedom (OHD) Istanbul Branch, the Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD), the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), the Marmara Prisoner and Convict Families Association for Solidarity (MA-TUHAYDER), the Health and Social Services Laborers Union (SES) İstanbul Branches all have members on the Committee.
Çiğdem Akbulut, a lawyer from the Contemporary Lawyers Association, stated that approximately 612 prisoners went on hunger strike and the number of prisoners participating in the action varied with each group taking part in the 5-day rotating hunger strike. They ranged from two to three prisoners taking part in each prison.
Akbulut emphasized the severe violations of rights that had taken place in prisons. It was noted that the prisoners cannot even access health treatment. Akbulut warned that if the hunger strike continues, the prisoners are likely to face “irreversible health problems”.
”The coronavirus pandemic has mostly affected prisons with the linked restrictions in place affecting the prisoners’ already limited rights and freedoms. However, the practices of isolation in Imralı Prison are far beyond the legal regulations”, Akbulut said.
Akbulut added: “We would like to emphasize once again that the extremely strict restrictions imposed on prisoners should be revised in Imralı prison and all other prisons and the practices which prevent their connection with the outside world should be urgently ended”. Sstated that the main demand regarding the ending of the prison isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan should be ended and his fundamental rights and freedoms should be recognised. “The prisoners demand rights to Abdullah Öcalan that have been guaranteed by the international Conventions, the Constitution and the Penal Execution Law”, Akbulut added.
”We do not understand how it is that Turkey signs international conventions, but does not comply with them. This [hunger striking] process is repeated every two years and prisoners have been struggling against the isolation conditions they face for a long time. Many prisoners experience severe health problems. For this reason, our only request from the authorities is for them to apply the law and end the isolation”, Baran Çelik, a lawyer from the Lawyers Association for Freedom said.
“We witnessed more violations of rights in prisons during the pandemic. The only thing prisoners demand is for the state to comply with international conventions as is their responsibility. We want their demand to be met and the hunger strikes to end”, said the lawyer Levent Pişkin, speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey.
”We would never want the hunger strikers to reach an irreversable point in terms of their health and physical integrity. Isolation is a crime against humanity. In all prisons, the same isolation policy is applied and these policies deepen every day. For the current time being, all rights of prisoners have been violated”, said Mehmet Acettin, a member of the Human Rights Association.
The Committee also stated that lawyers have already taken steps to initiate talks with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health but the authorities had not yet responded to these initiatives.