Kurdish mothers form the backbone of an ongoing vigil in Diyarbakır (Amed) demanding freedom for Abdullah Öcalan, as part of the TUAY-DER association for families of incarcerated persons.
The vigil supports a hunger strike prisoners launched 17 days ago in protest of the prison conditions and absolute isolation of Öcalan, the founding leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who has been serving a life sentence in a special island prison in northwest Turkey.
The women aged between 50 and 70 start their vigil at 11 am every day at the local offices of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), wearing vests that read, “Isolation is a crime against humanity”.
One of the mothers is Emine Al, whose daughter Gülistan is part of the hunger strike behind bars in the Kayseri province, some 500 km away from the family’s hometown.
“My daughter can’t use her right to a phone call since she began the hunger strike. I haven’t heard from her in 15 days. We can’t just sit at home, so even without any news we come here to join their resistance,” she told Mezopotamya Agency.
Vigil member Rabia Ataş has a daughter behind bars in Istanbul, who joined the hunger strike despite her health issues. She has since stopped. “Now three of her friends continue the hunger strike. In previous hunger strikes, almost 10 prisoners lost their lives. We don’t want to carry coffins out of prisons again,” Ataş said.
Another woman among them called for “peace and freedom” as jets took off from a nearby military base. “These jets are going to kill our children and our natural environment again. You must put pressure on international institutions to stop this war. We want peace and freedom. For that, Abdullah Öcalan must be free as soon as possible.”
A group of European politicians, activists and lawyers under the name the International Women’s Delegation visited the vigil on Tuesday as part of their visit to Turkey to report on rights violations in prisons.
“We know that there won’t be freedom anywhere in the world if oppression exists in any place. So, until everyone is free – both Mr Öcalan and also all their children – noone will be free. For us this is a global struggle,” Spanish lawyer and activist Paula Martín Ponz from the delegation told reporters.