Seriously ill prisoner Şivekar Ataş, who is currently on hunger strike in Turkey, spoke about the ongoing prisoners’ hunger strike actions that are taking place in the country.
The hunger strike actions were launched 49 days ago to end the prison isolation conditions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and to protest against the ongoing human rights violations of prisoners in Turkey. Massive hunger strike actions were launched in Turkish prisons on 27 November 2020 by Kurdish political prisoners. The prisoners are continuing rotating hunger strike actions.
Şivekar Ataş has been imprisoned for five years in Bakırköy Women’s Closed Prison in Istanbul. She was a member of the first group that undertook the hunger strike action. Speaking to her family during her allocated weekly phone call, Ataş reportedly said: “We are not trying to just partially end the isolation. We aim to completely end the prison isolation” conditions of Abdullah Öcalan. “We want our leader to be free. We want 2021 to mark the final year of this struggle”, she said.
Human rights violations in prison
Ataş drew attention to the numerous problems and violations of human rights they face in prisons. She stated that no books or publications in Kurdish were being allowed in prison and letters written in Kurdish that had been addressed to them had not been delivered to them for a long time. “We know that all our activities in Kurdish are restricted here. We know that this is a special policy. Again, seriously ill friends cannot go to the hospital to receive treatment”, she said.
Seriously ill prisoners face solitary confinement in order to go to hospital
Prisoner Ataş also reportedly commented on the inhumane treatment of seriously ill prisoners: “The prison administration has stated that if they are to go to receive treatment in hospital, they will need to stay in isolation in a prison room for 15 days. However, we have friends who are not able to conduct their daily care needs on their own in a solitary confinement cell for that period of time. Therefore, they cannot go to hospital. They do not want to risk being locked in solitary confinement after their return from the hospital”.
Ataş: Abdullah Öcalan’s isolation ‘is unacceptable’
“The Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan is today considered to be a leader of the peoples of the Middle East but he has been in isolation in prison for years. This isolation is unacceptable because he spent his life fighting for and seeking the freedom of the people. He spent his life struggling to attain peace”, Ataş said.
The hunger striking prisoners are insistent on their demands, Ataş stated that they have reached the point of saying “enough is enough. Enough of this isolation policy. We want our people to be a voice for our struggle. Nine of our friends were martyred during the previous hunger strike action. We do not want to lose more friends anymore. We want our leader to be free. We know that they are free in terms of ideas but we want them to be physically free now. We want 2021 to mark the end of this struggle against isolation. Our leader should be free. If this happens, he will be free in Kurdistan. Please do not remain silent to all of this”, she stated.
Ataş has participated in three hunger strike actions in five years
Şivekar Ataş’s mother Rabia Ataş told Jinnews that her daughter has taken part in three hunger strike actions over the past five years.
“After the first hunger strike, she suffered from heart disease. The disease progressed in the blink of an eye. This is her third hunger strike and I do not know what will happen now. My daughter is on hunger strike despite her illnesses. Now there is the pandemic to contend with as well. I do not know how they will deal with both the hunger strike and the pandemic”, Ataş’s mother said.
“Funerals came out of prison in the previous hunger strikes. We do not want to experience these same things again. Please do not be silent. As a mother, my heart cannot overcome the pain of the dead bodies coming out of prisons. Our children say they will continue their hunger strike actions as long as the isolation conditions are not lifted. So, the isolation must be lifted. The Ministry of Justice and the authorities must find a solution to this”.
Communication ‘is the most natural human right’
Emphasizing that Abdullah Öcalan, like all prisoners, should benefit from his right to communicate with the outside world, with his lawyers and family members, Ataş’s mother said: “It is the most natural human right. There is nothing illegal about this. What are they afraid of? We feel the fear for our children in vain. Our children do not accept the unlawful and unjust practices taking place in prisons. Are we more valuable than our children? We must protect our children. We were born as Kurds and we speak Kurdish. Now, even if they executed me, I would not speak a single word in Turkish. Why should I be afraid because my language is Kurdish?”