The indefinite rotational hunger strike initiated by political prisoners in Turkish prisons, demanding the freedom of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and the resolution of the Kurdish issue, continues on day 56.
Öcalan is held in absolute isolation in İmralı F-Type High Security Closed Prison, and the hunger strike aims to achieve his freedom and the addressing of the Kurdish problem.
The inmates began their hunger strike on 27 November 2023, as part of the broader ‘Freedom for Öcalan, A Political Solution for Kurdistan’ campaign that started on 10 October 2023 with simultaneous announcements in 74 locations worldwide. This campaign seeks to end the isolation in İmralı and secure Öcalan’s freedom.
As the campaign enters its fourth month, it is still 34 months since there has been any permission for family and lawyer visits either to Öcalan himself, or for Ömer Hayri Konar, Veysi Aktaş or Hamili Yıldırım, who are also detained in İmralı.
Political prisoners, however, through their hunger strikes and letters, are calling for the cessation of inhumane practices in İmralı Prison and for the broader issues faced by the Kurdish community in Turkey to be addressed.
Letters from hunger strikers
Kader Peker, an inmate at Tarsus Women’s Closed Prison, said in a letter dated 27 December 2023 that the collective hope was for 2024 to be a year of freedom. “We started this hunger strike to bring an end to the inhumane practices in İmralı Prison and to push for solutions to the problems faced by Kurds in our region and our country,” Peker noted. She expressed a desire for a more peaceful society, free from violence and urged the public to lend their voice to their cause.
Zeyyat Ağaoğlu, held at Akçadağ T-Type Prison in Malatya, wrote on 2 January 2024 about the prevailing practice of strict isolation and human rights violations in Turkish prisons. “The path to restarting social dynamics and a democratic process lies in lifting the strict conditions of isolation on Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish people, imprisoned in İmralı,” Ağaoğlu said, calling for support for the hunger strike and outlining demands, including the lifting of Öcalan’s isolation, the abolition of solitary confinement in prisons, the release of sick prisoners, and stopping the extension of sentences for those who have served their time.
Yusuf Kenan Dinçer, an inmate at Van High-Security Prison, described ongoing issues in a letter dated 3 January 2024. “We face problems like prolonged solitary confinement, restricted access to publications, limited social interaction and inadequate healthcare in Van High Security Prison,” he said. He also noted the imposition of quotas on water usage and highlighted the need for improved prison conditions generally.