A hunger strike demanding “freedom for Abdullah Öcalan and a solution to the Kurdish issue” commenced across prisons in Turkey on 27 November, and is scheduled to continue until 15 February 2024.
Of a total 104 detention centres involved in the strike, 21 of these are located within the Central Anatolia region, including high-security and closed prisons in Afyonkarahisar, Aksaray, Bolu and Kayseri, reported Human Rights Association (İHD) Ankara Branch Co-chair Ömer Faruk Yazmacı.
The prisoners’ demands must be heard, Yazmacı stressed, highlighting their call to end Öcalan’s total isolation for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue.
In addition to the hunger strike, prisoners are also reaching out to national and international authorities through petitions and letters. Yazmacı underscored the dire conditions faced by prisoners, including severe isolation measures intensified since the pandemic, and urged public support for the issue. The prisoners are committed to continue the action until the demands are met, he added.
Kurdish political prisoner Yakup Akman has joined the hunger strike campaign from Marmara (Silivri) Prison, where he is sentenced to 25 years and aggravated life imprisonment. Akman reiterated the concern regarding Öcalan’s isolated confinement under conditions of total incommunicado, and declared a commitment to continue the hunger strike until tangible steps are taken towards resolving these issues.
“The unprecedented isolation imposed on Mr. Abdullah Öcalan and the absence of any news about him have heightened concerns among us and the entire populace. Accepting this isolation is tantamount to enduring oppression, and we neither will accustom ourselves to it nor accept it. We want to inform our people that we have entered this hunger strike for the lifting of the isolation and for the physical freedom of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan, as well as for a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue. We will continue our action until concrete steps are taken,” he said.
The hunger strike forms part of a broader campaign seeking communication with Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who has been held in isolation in Turkey’s İmralı F-Type High Security Prison since 15 February 1999. Concerns over Öcalan’s well-being have escalated due to the lack of contact since a brief phone call with his brother on 25 March 2021.
Legal professionals and human rights advocates, including Veysi Güneş from the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD), have expressed the need for a political resolution to the Kurdish issue, viewing Öcalan’s treatment as indicative of Turkey’s approach to Kurdish rights and democracy.