Twenty-two years have passed since Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan was abducted and imprisoned by Turkey on 14 February 1999.
Öcalan has been exposed – as numerous human rights reports and assessments have concluded – to unlawfulness with aggravated isolation practices. He currently does not benefit from rights to meet with his family or his lawyers.
Moreover, the rights violations in both Imrali Prison and the other prisons in Turkey have increased during the past year as the state has used the pandemic as an excuse to proceed with its agenda. Political prisoners in Turkey have launched a hunger strike against the prison isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan in İmrali prison, as well as the ill-treatment of prisoners in Turkey. As the hunger strike in prisons reached its 83rd day, various solidarity actions supporting the aims of the strikers have been undertaken worldwide. Activists from Makhmur (Maxmur) Martyrs’ Families have also been on a hunger strike which has reached its 62nd day in Makhmour Refugee Camp.
Another group of activists in Lavrio Camp in Greece has been on a rotating hunger strike for 46 days. Berivan Karakoyun and Fatma Verim are among the hunger strikers in Greece. They spoke to Jin News about their decision to join the protest against the prison isolation conditions in Imrali island, and also discussed the aims of their action.
‘The CPT is not doing its job’
“Our actions are not only limited to hunger strikes”, says Berivan Karakoyun who emphasizes the importance of the resistance of Kurds against the isolation conditions imposed on Abdullah Öcalan. “Isolation is being imposed on the Kurdish people’s leader. We do not accept this and we call upon the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to take action against it”, she stated.
“If the CPT is an independent commission, it should share its reports of the detainees with the public. Other states should impose sanctions on Turkey. The CPT is not doing its job. From here, we appeal to the CPT to take responsibility and act according to its mission. What is the situation of our leader? Share it with the public”.
She also criticized government officials in Greece for not visiting the hunger strikers in the camp and added: “The world’s press does not cover these people who are resisting under these conditions. They can lose their life but they still resist in prisons since this isolation has not been imposed against only one person, it has been imposed against the whole of society”.
‘It is not enough to lift the isolation of our leader’
Karakoyun stated that Abdullah Öcalan has been trying to establish national unity amongst Kurds since 1992. “However, the government in Southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) meets with Erdoğan”, Turkey’s President, “and later the government of Southern Kurdistan says that it will not join the meetings regarding national unity. It is afraid of losing its power, but we call upon it to stop being an ally of Erdoğan’s”, she said.
“Once again, I am calling out to everyone from here: today is the day of resistance, unity, and peace. It is not enough to lift the isolation of our leader: the day is the day to ensure freedom for our leader”, Karakoyun added.
‘Anyone who wants peace should support the strikers’
Another hunger striker, Fatma Verim, extended her solidarity to the prison hunger strikers in Turkey. “We will never accept isolation and we will continue to resist wherever we are. But the world continues to remain silent about it”, she said, whilst appealing to people to support the prison hunger strikers. “We women will continue to protest against this and be behind our leader: we will never give up the struggle for his freedom”, she added.
Fatma Verim also mentioned the previous hunger strike action that was led by the co-chair of the Democratıc Socıety Congress (DTK), Leyla Guven, in 2019. “Nine people lost their lives during those protests. We say enough now. How long will this persecution continue? Anyone who wants peace should support the strikers”.