Birsen Kars, a victim and a survivor of violent state operations to end a hunger strike of political prisoners in 20 different prisons in Turkey in the year 2000, died of cancer in Germany on Sunday.
Birsen was one of a number of political prisoners who survived the Turkish state operation dubbed ‘Return to Life’, carried out by nearly 10,000 troops, which left 30 prisoners dead and hundreds injured.
The order for the operation was given by the administration of Bülent Ecevit, then prime minister and leader of the centre-left Democratic Left Party.
“This operation is an attempt to protect and save terrorists from their own terrorism,” was one of the statements he made to the press as the operation was carried out.
The prisoners had launched a coordinated hunger strike in different prisons in October 2000 in resistance against a recently introduced solitary confinement system in new F-type prisons, that consisted of cells instead of dormitories.
As injured prisoners were taken out of prison compounds after the operation in which there had been intensive use of chemical weapons, Birsen was one of the injured who first informed the world of the horrors inside. As she was dragged out of a transport vehicle, she managed to say:
“There were six of us. They burnt us alive. They burnt us alive!”
Birsen Kars was detained during a demonstration in 1992 when she was a university student of 21.
There were severe burns on her head, face, back and hands when she was taken out of the prison compound during the operation. After her release from prison she left Turkey for treatment.