Whilst the hunger strike in Turkey’s prisons reaches its 85th day, prisoners’ mothers are on the front line providing support to the demands of the prisoners and appealing to the Turkish authorities to address their demands.
The hunger strikes and the violations of rights of prisoners in Turkey have affected the lives of the relatives of prisoners as well. The prisoners’ families have not been allowed to conduct ‘open visits’ to the prisons due to the restrictions in place that have supposedly been taken in prisons to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Family members of the prisoners have complained that they have not been able to receive any news from the prisons. They state that the so-called ‘pandemic precautions’ in Turkey’s prisons have become a new layer of isolation that is being imposed on the prisoners.
Amidst complaints about human rights violations in prisons in Turkey, the prisoners in Turkey declared a hunger strike action 85 days ago. They demanded the lifting of the prison isolation conditions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and an end to severe violations of rights that were taking place in the prisons in the country.
Whilst the hunger strike continues, family members – but especially the mothers of the prisoners – have acted to voice the prisoners demands and concerns. Meryem Soylu and Sebrize Yılmaz are two such mothers who spoke to Jin News.
‘We are not free as long as our leader is not free’
Meryem Soylu has a son and a daughter who are in prison. “Öcalan has rights just like all the prisoners. Mr. Öcalan is the leader of all oppressed people. We are not free as long as our leader is not free. Peace and freedom is not possible without him. The prisoners know this very well”, she said. ”That’s why they started the resistance. Why are our kids being jailed? Did they pillage someone’s house, did they steal? No, all they did was to claim their rights”.
Meryem Soylu has been following the developments regarding the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan. She believes that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has deepened the isolation given its inaction. “Europe says it is the defender of human rights. Why do they remain silent now? We call out as mothers and representing prisoners’ families: ‘Do not let the prisoners die in prisons. The prisoners’ voices should be heard. It is enough. We want peace for all humanity'”, she said.
‘All the prisoners face isolation. Prisons have turned into places of torture’
Sebrize Yılmaz’s son, Ramazan Yılmaz, was arrested in 2014 when he was 15 years old. After spending four years in a juvenile prison, he was transferred to Diyarbakır (Amed) Type-T Closed Prison. “They arrested my son when he was only 15. He was a child. Now, we cannot visit him due to many grounds that the prison administration cites by way of an excuse: disciplinary penalties, etc. We cannot even talk to him by phone”, she said.
“All the prisoners face isolation. Prisons have turned into places of torture. Why is there so much pressure? They only demand their rights”.
‘The demands of our children are the demands of all Kurds’
Sebrize Yılmaz notes that she is not the only mother whose heart burns with anxiety and concern for her jailed children. “My son also participated in the previous hunger strike action. He had health problems after the hunger strike. Our minds are always occupied by prisons and hospitals. We try to provide support to them from outside the prison walls. The demands of our children are the demands of all Kurds. We think about our children all the time”, she said.