The jailed Kurdish politican and former Co-Chair of Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Sebahat Tuncel shared her views with Jin News on the 22nd anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan’s arrest. She evaluated the basis and nature of the ongoing hunger strikes in prisons in Turkey.
An indefinite rotating hunger strike was launched on 27 November 2020 by the political prisoners of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK) to protest against the prison isolation conditions imposed on Abdullah Öcalan in İmralı Island F-type High Security Prison and the soaring violations of rights taking place in Turkey’s prisons. It has reached its 85th day.
Sebahat Tuncel, who has been jailed in Turkey’s Kocaeli Kandıra No.1 Type-F High Security Prison for over four years, herself went on hunger strike in the third section of the groups that have been staging the massive hunger strike. It was also reported that Tuncel had also applied to be transferred to the İmralı prison island complex where Abdullah Öcalan is being held.
‘With the spring, we will also raise our hopes’
”With the spring, we will also raise our hopes with our resistance and struggle for freedom against the policies of isolation, the war and the oppression of peoples, women and nature”, she said. ”The obstacle against a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question stems from the mentality of the state and the ruling power. Since the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish state has adopted the policy of denial, destruction and assimilation as its basic policy against the demands of the Kurdish people for their rights, freedom, identity, language and culture”.
Tuncel stressed that Turkey’s approach to the Kurdish question is so strategic that even though the governments may change, the approach remains the same. “The policy of the state towards the Kurdish people never changes. Kurds have also objected to these policies throughout the history of the republic, and as a result of these objections, dozens of rebellions occurred. Thanks to this resistance of the Kurdish people, the Kurds have achieved important results. However, the state’s policy of denial, destruction and assimilation has been maintained to this day”, she said.
Tuncel: Anti-Kurdishness is central to Turkey’s international policy
Relating the isolation policy imposed on Imralı Island to Turkey’s policy regarding the Kurdish question, Tuncel said: “The current isolation on the prison island of Imralı is the expression of the current anti- Kurdish war policy of the Turkish state”.
Anti-Kurdishness is also central to Turkey’s international policy, she observed: “Especially, a significant part of the diplomacy that Turkey conducts with Iran, Iraq and Syria consists of the goal of preventing Kurdish people’s self-determination and aims at the elimination of the Kurdish language, identity and cultural rights. With isolation policies in place in Imralı, Turkey puts forward the anti-Kurdish policies in the context of both its domestic and foreign policy. Öcalan has expressed his views and suggestions regarding securing Kurdish-Turkish peace, unity amongst the Kurds, and the call for equality and free and peaceful coexistence for the peoples of the Middle East”, Tuncel said.
‘Öcalan continues to be jailed under strict isolation conditions’
Tuncel stated that “Abdullah Öcalan was brought to Turkey 22 years ago by the joint plan of many international forces as a consequence of Turkey’s anti-Kurdish policy. Mr. Öcalan has been held in Imrali Prison under isolation since then. Such a global plot had the purpose to deepening the Turkish-Kurdish conflict as well as suppressing the Kurdish people’s will to determine their own destiny in the struggle for equality and freedom. However, Mr. Öcalan’s predictions about the target of the plot and the efforts to defeat this plot prevented them from achieving their goals”.
Tuncel noted that “Mr. Öcalan analyzed both world politics and the capitalist modernist system in the Middle East, and he developed the solution of democratic modernity against the capitalist crisis. Following the analysis and solutions developed by Mr. Öcalan, social, economic, ecological issues as well as women’s issues are being discussed in many international circles today. However, Mr. Öcalan continues to be jailed under strict isolation conditions”.
‘Anti-Kurdish policies still continue as a political attitude of Turkey’
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies insist on isolation because they ignore the Kurdish people’s language, identity and cultural rights, she observed. “It is because they do not want a solution to the Kurdish problem. The isolation policy can also be seen in the approach towards Rojava and the attacks on the achievements of the Kurdish political movement which have been taking place simultaneously. Anti-Kurdish policies still continue as a political attitude of Turkey”, stated the jailed politician.
Tuncel stressed that the politics of the AKP has tended to move more towards ‘right-wing politics’, especially after the end of the ‘solution process’. “Since 2015, the AKP government has tended to apply right-wing politics more; what I mean by this is more nationalist, religious and sexist policies. They have been trying to establish a monist, authoritarian regime with the presidential system, but there is very strong opposition to this in society. With the alliance, they are trying to suppress these dissenting voices by mobilizing all the forces of supression of the state”, she said.
‘The new constitution will be established as the constitution of the second republic’
Regarding the current reforms proposed by the Turkish government and calls for a ‘civil constitution’ that come from the opposition, she stated that the “hidden agenda” behind some of these initiatives needs to be appreciated: “The new constitution will be established as the constitution of the second republic that is founded by Erdoğan – which is the hidden agenda behind the call of the republican alliance for a civil constitution. With the construction of the second republic of its new regime, the AKP will ignore the Kurds and their demands for basic rights and freedoms. For this reason, it will deepen its attacks against all organised institutions of the Kurdish people, municipalities and the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). The isolation policy is at the centre of all of this”, she said.
Rojava has ‘become a source of hope for all the peoples of the world’
Despite these negative developments, Tuncel paid attention to the hopes of the resistance: “The struggle of Kurdish people is important not only for the Kurds, but also for the future of the Middle East. In Rojava, the resistance of the Kurdish people in North East Syria against the ISIS gangs who commit crimes against humanity and their defeat of ISIS has affected the future of the peoples in the Middle East and become a source of hope for all the peoples of the world”, she said.
“The only reason for this hope is not just to defeat ISIS, but to build a democratic, ecological and women’s based liberal system in Rojava. The development of a democratic and liberal system against the male-dominated capitalist system, of course, disturbs the rulers”.
The government ‘further deepens the already widespread isolation practices’
All human rights defenders around the world have been constantly calling on the Turkish state to “end the isolation policies immediately”, Tuncel stated. “However, the government ignores these calls and further deepens the already widespread isolation practices. As the CPT pointed out in its report, there is a private legal system, a torture system in Imralı Prison. Absolute isolation is imposed on Mr. Öcalan and his friends. Instead of ending the isolation system in Imralı, it has spread to all prisons in Turkey. The public should react to this situation and speak out against this injustice and these cruel laws”.
Tuncel appealed to democratic forces in Turkey and around the world to provide support for the hunger strike against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. “To end the isolation policies and to achieve the democratic and peaceful solution of the Kurdish problem, the hunger strike was initiated in November 2018 under the leadership of Leyla Güven. It was terminated at the end of 200 days after the meeting with Mr. Öcalan’s brother and his lawyers. However, the government denied the constitutional-legal rights of Mr. Öcalan and his friends through arbitrary practices. Therefore, the indefinite alternating hunger strikes in prisons started again with their demands”, she said.
“Disciplinary investigations were immediately opened against the hunger striking prisoners and punishments were given to our friends on the hunger strike. In addition, no health treatment has been provided by the administrations of the prisons during this process. However, in spite of all these adverse conditions, one of the most important things is to increase solidarity to break these isolation policies”.
The significance of International Women’s Day and Newroz
Tuncel also commented about International Women’s Day and ‘Newroz’ (the celebration of the arrival of spring and new year in Kurdish culture), which is shortly to be celebrated: “Now, we have 8 March and Newroz coming. Celebrations could not be held last year due to the pandemic. Whilst the government was carrying out all its activities on the streets, the opposition forces were banned from such activities. This year, we welcome 8 March and Newroz under pandemic conditions. I think we felt more deeply how important rights and freedoms and democracy are. That is why, with the spring, we will also raise our hopes. We will raise the resistance and struggle of freedom against both the policies of isolation and the war policies and all the oppressive policies that target peoples, women and nature”, she said.