The hunger strike continues into its 78th day in more than 150 prisons in Turkey. Mothers of the hunger striking prisoners have been leading the call for justice outside the prisons, and have been calling for the hunger strikers’ demands to be met.
Political prisoners in Turkey launched a hunger strike on 27 November 2020 to protest against the prison isolation conditions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in a high security prison in Turkey since 1999. The demands of the hunger strikers are that the isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan must be be lifted and the violation of rights of prisoners in Turkey must be ended.
Zeynep Çelik, whose son has been imprisoned in Kayseri Prison since 2010, spoke to Jin News and shared her concerns about her son’s health and the situation of political prisoners in Turkey’s prisons.
‘The crime of my son was to join a peace meeting’
Zeynep Çelik shed light on how easily political activists have been sent to prison in Turkey. “The crime of my son was to join the Peace Meeting that was held in Diyarbakır (Amed)”, she said. Her son is one of more than 250 political prisoners who started an indefinite hunger strike in solidarity with Leyla Güven in 2019, when she went on a hunger strike demanding an end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan.
“Through the years, prisoners have been demanding freedom of our leader, Abdullah Öcalan. We want peace. We do not see any difference between Turkish, Kurdish, Arab or Persian people. We respect all peoples, so they should respect us too”, she said.
‘The pressure on Kurds has continued all these years up to the present’
Zeynep Çelik’s family had to migrate from Muş – their home town in the eastern Turkey – to the western province of Muğla almost half a century ago. Their migration story is similar to many of the stories of Kurdish families, who had to move towards the western side of Turkey to escape from the grinding poverty they experienced in the Kurdish majority populated eastern province. “The pressure on Kurds has continued all these years up to the present. They want us to forget about our identity, our culture and our language, but we continue to speak in Kurdish despite all that pressure”, she said.
The hunger strikers ‘resist injustice and rights violations’
“The prisoners resist injustice and rights violations: their demands are legitimate”, she said. “The ones who rule us should put themselves in our shoes. How would they feel if their children were in a similar situation?” Zeynep Çelik shared her concerns regarding the well-being of her son and other prisoners: “Our children say that they are okay on the phone, but we are never sure about it”, she said. “They want to be treated in a humane manner, so do we”.
According to Zeynep Çelik, Abdullah Öcalan represents the leadership of the collective will of the Kurdish people: “He is the leader of the Kurdish people. They should accept that”, she said. “No lawyers can visit him, no family members can visit him. This has to change”.