After Kurdish activist Mahmut Kardaş ended his 44-day death fast in a Turkish prison, his niece, writer Meral Şimşek, also ended her fast on Thursday night.
Announcing her decision in a video on her social media account, Şimşek said they would continue their legal fight for a fair trial in Kardaş’s case.
Kurdish activist Mahmut Kardaş, who was recently sentenced to life in prison, has been on a death fast* for more than 40 days in demand of a fair trial. His niece in Germany, writer Meral Şimşek, also began a death fast on Tuesday.
Meral Şimşek told Medya News that she started the fast to draw attention to the irregularities in the trial of her uncle, who was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment on 21 September. She also wanted to highlight his death fast and to expose the injustice in the trials of Kurdish dissidents in Turkey.
“I will not accept any attempts at persuasion until the necessary steps to end my uncle’s death fast are taken immediately and my uncle ends his action,” said Şimşek, who began her death fast on 31 October.
Mahmut Kardaş was arrested in 2022, 16 years after a fued between the Kardaş family and a village guard in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed), which led to a series of murders. The feud then escalated into a point where four houses of the Kardaş family were burned down and a 15-year-old Kardaş was murdered. Young members of the family were arrested and given heavy sentences, while no one from the village guard family was detained.
Kardaş was arrested on the basis of an anonymous report against him which held him responsible for the incident. On 21 September 2023, he was sentenced to life imprisonment without any evidence of his involvement in the events.
After the verdict was announced, Kardaş began a hunger strike to demand a fair trial and a re-examination of the evidence, losing 17 kilos in 44 days. Showing signs of physical deterioration and slowed speech, Kardaş has now entered the critical phase of his action.
His niece, who lives in exile in Berlin, recalled that her uncle had been previously arrested for his political activities in the 1980s and spent 17 years in prison and said: “With this incident, they want to punish my uncle again. We can see that the Turkish state wants to take revenge on my uncle Mahmut Kardaş for his political activities in the past. The prosecutor who asked for the punishment and the court that issued the verdict did not carry out any investigation, witnesses were not heard and he was punished as if in revenge.”
Şimşek explained that “slow procedures and insufficient public support” had led her to this decision and criticised the fact that, despite the time that had passed, not even a parliamentary question had been submitted to the Turkish Parliament.
Recalling that her older sister Mülkiye Doğan also died in prison 30 years ago when she was only 19 years old, Şimşek added: “My family should not keep vanishing one by one”.
* a death fast is an extremely strict, water-only hunger strike with no supplements like sugar and salt, typically taken in hunger strikes.