Sebahat Tuncel, a jailed Kurdish politician involved in the Kobani Case, began a hunger strike on Thursday 28 December, aiming to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey and secure the release of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Tuncel, who has been critical of Turkey’s four-decade approach of “war and death” in addressing the Kurdish issue, is joining the ongoing hunger strike movement within Turkish prisons, which entered its 32nd day as of the same date.
Through her lawyers, Tuncel conveyed her stance on the Turkish government’s policies towards the Kurds, criticising their denial of Kurdish identity, language and culture. She accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) coalition of moral and political degradation, which has manifested in increasing violence, drug problems and the exploitation of youth deaths for political gains.
Tuncel also condemned Turkey’s military actions in Kurdish-majority regions, including North and East Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan, citing civilian casualties and ecological damage. She emphasised the need for a solution based on dialogue, negotiation and the recognition of Kurdish rights, contrasting the current policies of denial, destruction and assimilation. Tuncel called for a shift towards peaceful coexistence, referencing Öcalan’s readiness for dialogue and criticising Turkey’s reluctance to engage in a solution-oriented approach.
Meanwhile, the Free Lawyers Association (ÖHD) has reported human rights violations and intensified isolation measures against Kurdish political prisoners participating in a hunger strike for the ‘Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan, Solution to the Kurdish Issue’ movement. Rezan Gezer of the ÖHD stated, “Three prisoners on hunger strike were moved to separate cells [in Marmara (Silivri) Prison]. In some instances, disciplinary investigations have been launched, and access to social activities have been curtailed. The usual four hours of yard time have been cut down to one hour. We anticipate a surge in investigations, as the prison administration, initially underestimating the prisoners’ resolve, is likely to adopt a more stringent stance in response to their continued determination.”
Vigils in support of the movement are ongoing in several cities, including Diyarbakır (Amed), Istanbul, Van (Wan), Adana and Mersin, with İzmir also joining. As part of these vigils, New Year cards were sent to İmralı Prison, where Öcalan is incarcerated. The hunger strike action is set to continue until 15 February 2024.