Solidarity with Hunger Strikers: Urgent Call from BDP



Today, it has been 53 days since Kurdish political prisoners in the Turkish prisons began indefinite hunger strikes on September 12, 2012. At this moment, health status of prisoners on hunger strike is severely impaired and came to a very critical stage. This announcement is prepared in order to inform international public opinion that we are extremely concerned that loss of life may be imminent and ask your solidarity to prevent it.

On September 12, 2012; 64 Kurdish political prisoners have started an indefinite and irreversible hunger strike in 7 Prisons in Turkey.

On 22 September 2012, ten days later 79 more prisoners joined the hunger strike. With new participants these numbers have been continuously increasing. According to joint research of Human Rights Association, Progressive Lawyers Association and Law & Human Rights Commission of Peace and Democracy Party, at least 654 Kurdish political prisoners and convicts in prisons are on an indefinite and irreversible hunger strike in 66 prisons. Imprisoned members of parliament, Mr. Faysal Sarıyıldız, Ms. Gülser Yıldırım and Ms. Selma Irmak and Mayor of Derik, Ms. Çağlar Demirel are also participating to the indefinite hunger strike.

Specifically, the health status of 154 political prisoners that began the hunger strike with the first two groups is severely impaired and their life is under extreme danger and at great vital risk.

In a press release to the public, political prisoners on a hunger strike have made two specific demands and stated that they will not reverse their decision unless their demands are meet. These demands are:

1- The right to education and legal defense in mother tongue.

2- Ending the isolation of Mr. Abdullah Öcalan in Imrali prison in order to creating the conditions for dialogue and negotiation.

According to the above mentioned demands, reason of the hunger strike is not for individual interest or awful conditions of the prisons in Turkey. Political prisoners believe that their existence in prisons is directly related with the conflicts between the Turkish Government and Kurdish political movement. Therefore, the prisoners and arrested politicians are considering themselves as “prisoner of war” or POW. The existing judicial system, the anti-terror law that amended in 2006 and security oriented governing are created a total war against Kurds’ fundamental rights. Freedom of speech, right to demonstration and demanding collective rights of the people perceived as “terrorist activity” by the prosecutors and the government as well. The existing Anti-terror law allows prosecutors to arrest everyone without concrete evidence. Therefore, more than 8000 Kurdish politicians, journalists, advocates, trade unionists and NGO members have been in prisons for many years without any verdict by judges. Many of the participants of the hunger strike are victims of the existing law system. Their legal defenses in mother tongue are not provided due to the monist mentality. This situation is one of the reasons of the hunger strike.

Unfortunately, AKP Government has not any sensitivity or attention to the ongoing hunger strike. Prime Minister Erdoğan clearly lied when he was in Germany. According to Erdoğan, only one prisoner is continuing to the hunger strike. At the same time Minister of Justice announced that 683 prisoners and arrested people are in hunger strike. It is very tragic that, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice are not from different countries. But their speeches are totally different. Unfortunately, PM Erdoğan is not focusing on solving the issue. The main approach of the government is disinforming the hunger strike.

On the other hand, while the people who protest the government because of its insensitivity, AKP Government and its police forces are continuing arrest BDP members and protestors. Yesterday, 97 students were taken custody during the protests in order to prevent democratic opposition. Today, 20 people from BDP, press and NGOs are take in custody by the police raids in Mersin. We believe that, the reason of the ongoing arrests is to prevent solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Therefore, we as BDP, call government to stop accusing BDP or hunger strikers. Government must respect to the Kurdish prisoners demands. The demands are fundamental rights of humanity. Therefore, PM Erdoğan must end this meaningless obstinacy. In case of insist to this negative manner, AKP Government will be main responsible of the closing tragedy.

No time to wait! Everyone from the earth should react to the AKP Government’s totalitarian approach on Kurdish People and their fundamental rights. No state or power can prevent a human’s freedom of speech or defense in mother tongue in democratic countries. No one should live without collective identity in their home country.

BDP urgently calls to government, international public opinion and institutions to prevent losing lives in prisons.




Events on Hunger Strikes

1. Prisoners who are on indefinite hunger strike since September 12 in Siirt E Type Closed Prison have learned aggravate health problems. İHD (HRA) lawyers Roja Arslan and Yavuz Çelepkolu who met with the prisoners on hunger strike in prison, said hunger-striking prisoners does not accept liquid.

2. Rıza Turan who is in Siirt E Type Prison has loss of sight and also director of prison didn’t deliver blanket which is given to him by his family.

3. Eleven women prisoners who are started the hunger strike in Diyarbakır E Type Prison some findings on their health status; weakness, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sound and noise, irregular blood pressure, excessive weight loss and nose bleeds

4. Four prisoners who are in Şakran T type Prison No 4 were single cells and a place to sleep, clothes, pen and paper to tell their status are not given.

5. Although Berivan Elter who is in hunger strike has health report, a new report was taken and she pick up from Ankara to Diyarbakır ( round trip 36 hours)

6. B1 Vitamin is not given any prisoners in Adana F type Prison

Kurdish Hunger Strikers in Strasbourg End the Hunger Strike after 52 Days

The hunger strike in Strasbourg has ended after 52 days. A press release from the hunger strikers state that the hunger strike has reached its goal, and the action is therefore ending  as of today”.


The statement also stressed the continuous struggle of the hunger strikers for the release and well-being of the Kurdish leader Abdulla Ocalan and the freedom of the Kurdish people, also in the future.

The statement comes after a press conference in the European Parliament attended by the MEP Jürgen Klute, Coordinator of the European Parliament – Kurds Friendship Group amongst others.

Also present at the press conference was winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and member of the Turkish Parliament Leyla Zana.

Leyla Zana stressed the importance of the preventing casualties stemming from this hunger strike and declared that the many meetings had been conducted with members of the European Parliament to ensure a quick resolution and adherence to the demands put forth by the hunger strikers.

Also present at the press conference was hunger striker Nigar Enayati, a norwegian citizen and former Red Party (Rød Valgalliance) Oslo Municipal Council member. She called on the CPT* to listen to as soon as possible visit the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan on the prison island of Imrali in Turkey. Ocalan has been in isolation for 270 days, during which has been denied visits from both his family and lawyers.

The European parliament ensured to look into the health condition of Ocalan and called upon the hunger strikers to finish their action.

A question which was raised by an attending journalist, in which he questioned the sincerety of the European Union in adherring to the demands of the hunger strikers despite    the promise made, was answered by panel by stating that if the demands are ignored the campaign will continue!

Press conference in the EU parliament regarding the Kurdish hunger strikers

*CPT= The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or shortly Committee for the Prevention of Torture

Doctors warn of casualties for Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg on their 48th day


Hunger strikers; Fuat Kav, Gönül Kaya, Ahmet Çelik, Mecbure Özer, Harun Yilmaz, Ahmet Kiliç, Emine Benek, Gulistan Hasan, Nigar Enayati, Erol Polat, İmam Yildiz, Oner Uludag, Kerim Sivri, Tarik Yusufi and Hasan Acar (Photo:YeniOzgurPolitika)

15 Kurdish activists started an unlimited hunger strike in Strasbourg, France, on 1 March 2012. The aim of the action was to support the then ongoing hunger strike of imprisoned BDP parliamentarian Selma Irmak, amongst others. That hunger strike started on 15 February at the same time as the still ongoing hunger strike of 2000 Kurdish political prisoners in Turkish prisons, now on its 63rd day. New people join the hunger strike in prisons on a regular basis, and 500 new people joined  this week resulting in 2000 prisoners currently being on hunger strike in Turkish prisons.

So far three of the hunger strikers in Strasbourg have been in such a bad condition that they have been taken to the hospital but they all were refusing treatment and nutrition supplements and instead demanded to be taken back to rest of the hunger strikers to continue.

The hunger strike in Strasbourg was initiated outside the office of the European Council under the heading of “Freedom for Ocalan” and has so far gathered the support of Kurds and non Kurds alike from many of the European countries. Kurdish artists, internationally renowned public figures and politicians as well as the people of Strasbourg have showed support and solidarity with the unlimited hunger strike.

The demands are concluded in five bullet points (see below) and focus mainly on the health condition of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and the ongoing state violence of Turkey against the Kurdish people.
The hunger strikers demand;

• that the isolation of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, held in solitary confinement in Imrali prison in Turkey, should immediately stop and that his health condition is improved and guaranteed.
• that representatives from the CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture) visit Imrali to investigate the conditions at the prison island and thereafter notify the public of the results.
• that the European Council takes the correct measures against the Turkish state’s oppression of the Kurdish people
• that the European Union will reconsider their relations with Turkey and if there are not any improvements, the relations with Turkey will come to cease.
• that the PKK is removed from the EU list of terrorist organisations.

The hunger strike has caught the attention of many politicians and the last public figure to raise his voice against Turkish state violations against the Kurdish people is Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from 1984, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. He calls upon the Secretary General of the European Council, Thorbjørn Jagland, to take action in this matter of urgency.

New article on Kurdish politics in Syria

Have you ever read a news article that makes mention of Kurdish political parties in Syria? If so, you’ve probably been terribly confused by the many similar party names and who all the players are. Trying to sort out Kurdish politics in Syria is reminiscent of that great scene from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. You may remember all naming of all the parties…the People’s Front of Judea, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Judean People’s Front, and so on.

Well, an article was just published that sheds some much needed light on Kurdish politics in Syria and was just released on Middle East Report Online. The article, The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria, was written by Christian Sinclair and Sîrwan Kajjo. Sinclair is the assistant director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Kajjo is a Syrian-Kurdish journalist and human rights activist based in DC.

Together they’ve put together a piece that looks at historical origins of the parties, the fractious nature of Kurdish politics, an inside look at party membership, and a framework of how these parties relate to the regime in Damascus, and, now their relationships with the Kurdish youth movements.

You can find the article here:

Cartoon: Who’s doing what to topple the regime?

Click image to enlarge

Cartoon from Soparo perhaps represents the disagreements amongst some Kurdish political parties in Syria and the ‘Kurdish street.’ Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, sits comfortably atop a chair. The Arab on the right is holding a sign that reads ‘The people want the fall of the regime’, which has become a common refrain in Syria in all parts of the country, and shows him standing with a Kurd, united in their call. The guy with the ax, maybe representing the Kurdish youth and their groups, is also trying to ‘topple the regime.’  But the cartoon shows some of the Kurdish political parties on the left who, according to some, haven’t yet put their full weight behind that slogan. Hence the impression that they are propping up the regime instead of helping to topple it. The sign held up by the man in grey reads ‘لجنة التنسيق’, meaning Coordinating Committee, which is a group of three Kurdish political parties in Syria: the Future Movement, Yekîtî, and Azadî. The PYD (Partîya Yekîtî ya Demokratîk or Democratic Union Party),  is closely linked to the PKK, hence Öcalan’s figure on the left.  These groups are the most anti-regime of the Kurdish political parties and the most actionist. Members of the PYD and the Coordinating Committee do support the protests and have been out protesting. So this cartoon is all about perceptions. If  you have any other interpretations of this, leave a comment.

Öcalan makes an appearance in ‘Afrin

The videos below are from ‘Afrin (Efrîn), uploaded onto YouTube yesterday,  07 May. I assume they are from Friday’s demonstrations. ‘Afrin, with a population of about 80,000, is located north of Aleppo and has been a traditional support base for the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, Kurdistan Workers’ Party). While there were far larger protests in other Kurdish areas in Syria, this one stood out for its manifestations of support for the PKK.

Banner from Friday: 'Democracy means the continuation of life'

It was a small protest compared to what’s been going on in Qamişlo, for example, but it is unique in what the demonstrators were waving…flags with the depiction of Abdullah Öcalan, PKK flags, flags of the PYD (Democratic Union Party), flying and waving with the Syrian flag. They shouted, ‘PYD, PYD, PYD’ as well as ‘Azadî, azadî, azadî’, which means ‘freedom’ in Kurdish. The PYD is the Kurdish party in Syria that has the closest links to the PKK. Demonstrators also broke out into the now-standard chant, ‘One, one, one, the Syrian people are one.’


Özgür Ülke: the story behind the bombings

An article appeared a couple days ago in ANF, Özgür Ülke: the bombing of a Kurdish newspaper 16 years ago, that touches upon an important era in the history of the Kurdish press in Turkey. The article though did not give any context to the tragic ‘black’ years of the early 90s for Kurdish journalists and journalism, nor does it relate the importance of this and other newspapers to the development of the Kurdish press. This background information is crucial to really appreciate the story of Özgür Ülke.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, 03 December 1994 three synchronised explosions rocked the main office and printing house of the daily Özgür Ülke in Istanbul, as well as the paper’s office in Ankara.

Shortly before 3am an explosion ripped through the daily’s printing house in the Cağaloğlu neighbourhood of the Eminönü district in Istanbul, causing extensive damage. The Eminönü district is home to many publishing houses. Half an hour later, an explosive device, perhaps an explosive-laden truck, detonated on the ground floor of the daily’s main office in Kumkapı in the Fatih district of Istanbul. The four-story building was gutted. All told, one person was killed and 23 were injured. Ersin Yildiz, the lone fatality, died on the way to hospital.

Meanwhile, an explosion rocked the Özgür Ülke office on Menekse Street in Ankara causing extensive damage. There were no casualties at the Ankrara office.

Interior Minister Nahit Mentese said that the reason for the bombings of the Özgür Ülke offices in Istanbul and Ankara might be provocation or a dispute among its various factions. He added that every possible angle was being investigated.

However, others had different ideas as to who bombed the Özgür Ülke offices. The newspaper blamed the state for the coordinated explosions. Mehmet Cifti, Ankara representative of Özgür Ülke claimed that the attacks on the newspaper, which had recently come under increased police harassment, were an attempt to ‘silence’ the paper for defending Kurdish rights. He claimed the decision to attack the offices had been taken during Turkey’s military-dominated National Security Council meeting three days prior to the attacks. Both the Turkish Chief of General Staff and the Interior Minister are on record saying ‘Özgür Ülke should be stopped.’

The editor-in-chief, Baki Karadeniz, said that it was obvious who the perpetrators were, adding: ‘These attacks will not silence us. Our newspaper will be published tomorrow and the days after that…’

And it was published the next day with the headline ‘Bu ateş, sizi de yakar’ (This fire will burn you too).

On 19 December 1994, the paper published an article under the banner headline: ‘[former Turkish PM] Çiller Gave the Orders To Bomb the Paper.’ The Prime Minister’s Office Press Centre issued a statement saying that ‘the newspaper in question is misleading the citizens and the world. Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution and the law in Turkey, which is a democratic state of law.’ The statement went on to say that ‘the Turkish Republican Government considers freedom of the press as sacred as other rights and freedoms and values it as such.’

Replying to reporters’ questions in Ankara after the attack, Interior Minister Mentese said that even insinuating state involvement in these attacks directed against human lives and property was unthinkable. He added that the state had always tried to ensure the prevalence of the laws. In reply to a question on whether it was a coincidence that the bombings took place soon after the PKK called for a cease-fire, Mentese said that every possibility was being taken into consideration.

Prior to the bombings…

Turkish PM Yıldırım Akbulut announced in 1990: ‘We have decided to answer guns with guns,’ and with that new restrictions were placed on the reporting of the conflict in the southeast; all news reports would have to be ‘coordinated’ with the Interior Ministry, and publishers would be liable for hefty fines and immediate closure upon conviction of printing any material considered to ‘pose a threat to the rule of law.’

The restrictions stemmed from a Council of Ministers order, Decree 413, which equipped the regional governor in southeastern Turkey with extraordinary powers, among them, to censor the press. Following this and other decrees issued later that month, an almost complete censorship was imposed on news from southeastern Turkey. Most news from that region was then based solely on information released by the regional governor’s office. Journalists who tried to cover Kurdish issues or investigate allegations of abuse on the part of security forces ran a serious risk of criminal charges and prison sentences. Some were expelled from towns in the region.

These were the first shots to be fired in a new war against the Kurdish press, which was to escalate into a barrage of assassinations, arson, judicial persecution and confiscations.

Widespread attacks on journalists working for left-wing and pro-Kurdish newspapers began in 1992. These assaults and murders, which continued and escalated over several years, must be seen in the light of the state’s tight control on the expression of unorthodox views, and particularly of any material which was seen as ‘subversive.’

Article 8 of the newly-implemented Anti-Terror Law of 12 April 1991 armed the state with a handy weapon against the pro-Kurdish press. A catch-all provision said that: ‘No written or verbal propaganda, meeting, demonstration and march, which targets the indivisible unity of the people and country of the Turkish Republic, for whatever thought or aim, are allowed.’ Article 8 was used against any manifestation of Kurdish identity, illustrated most starkly by the experience of the pro-Kurdish press.

Up to the end of 1992, 48 confiscation orders or lawsuits were filed by State Security Court prosecutors based on 114 issues of the weekly newspaper Yeni Ülke, which first appeared in October 1990. Start up funding for Yeni Ülke was provided by the PKK and was enthusiastically backed by Kurdish activists.

The monthly magazine Özgür Halk started publication in November 1990 and lasted for 27 issues. During that period, 15 issues were confiscated and lawsuits were filed against 22 issues. Eight employees of the paper were arrested and tortured; the Diyarbakır office was bombed; the Diyarbakır representative Huseyin Ebem was given a 26-month prison sentence and a 45 million TL fine for ‘making propaganda against the indivisible integrity of the state’, and two of the paper’s representatives were murdered.

The daily paper Özgür Gündem paid the heaviest penalty for the right to publish during this phase of the state’s operations against the press. Between 31 May 1992, when it was launched, and 15 January 1993, when it was forced to stop publication, confiscation orders were issued against 39 issues; fines amounting to billions of TL were imposed on the management; seven correspondents and distributors of the paper were murdered; 55 correspondents were arrested, and three of them were severely tortured; employees’ homes and the paper’s offices were repeatedly raided by the police, and property used by the paper was subjected to regular arson attacks.

Özgür Gündem, which typically published interviews with Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the PKK, and frequently printed statements by the PKK, was regarded by most Turks as the mouthpiece of the outlawed organisation. Öcalan also had a weekly column in the paper using the pen name Ali Firat. The papers’ reporters were constantly stopped by police, and distribution of the paper was obstructed by security forces in the southeast.

Turkish officials refuting claims of harrassment of the paper say the state has nothing to fear from a newspaper whose circulation is a mere 12,000. Other reports estimated circulation anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000.

The year 1993 began with the closure of the newspaper on 15 January, driven out of business by harassment, confiscations, raids, arrests, and violence. On 26 April 1993, Özgür Gündem was publishing again, after merging with another paper that had also been relentlessly persecuted, Yeni Ülke. But that did not last for long. Throughout the following 7 months, the paper suffered a crescendo of attacks, both physical and legal. By July, the publishers and editors had been fined a total of 8.6 billion TL ($736,500 at that time) and sentenced to prison terms totalling 155 to 493 years. By the end of November 1993, there were 170 further cases outstanding against the paper, including an action to close the paper on the grounds that ‘the chief editor Davut Karadag did not communicate his new address to the Istanbul Governorate.’

The main charges against the paper were ‘making separatist propaganda’ and ‘praising the PKK’ contrary to Articles 7 and 8 of the Anti-Terror Law. These were due to be heard before the State Security Tribunal, a special court designated under Article 143 of the Turkish Constitution to hear ‘offences against the indivisible integrity of the state…,’ on 21 September 1993. On that date, however, the proprietor Yasar Kaya was unable to appear, because he was in custody on another charge.

On 10 December 1993, International Human Rights Day, 200 police raided the paper’s offices in Istanbul, arresting 100 employees and seizing equipment. In simultaneous raids on all the other offices of the paper except Ankara, another 50 were taken into custody.

By the end of 1993, six of the paper’s journalists and 14 other staff members had been killed, one journalist, Burhan Karadeniz had been shot by unidentified gunmen and paralysed for life, and one journalist had disappeared.

On 14 April 1994 Özgür Gündem was shut down temporarily, in the first of 200 such cases to come to the Supreme Court. On 27 April, the owners of the paper decided to cease operations, and a new title, Özgür Ülke, was launched. But on 14 June 1994, the editor, deputy editor and 11 journalists from the defunct title were put on trial in Istanbul. The editor, Ms Gurbeteli Ersöz and four others were charged with membership of an illegal organisation, the remainder with ‘separatist propaganda.’

Özgür Ülke fared no better than its predecessor, Özgür Gündem, and two months after the bombings, on 03 February 1995, Özgür Ülke was closed down altogether when a court ruled that it was subject to the same ban as Özgür Gündem. When yet another paper representing a Kurdish viewpoint, Yeni Politika, was planned, its premises were raided before even the first issue appeared in April, six of its journalists were detained, and the inaugural issue was confiscated for containing ‘separatist propaganda.’

This was all taking place around the same time the Turkish military was carrying out a ‘scorched earth’ policy in the southeast, with roughly 2,000 Kurdish villages erased from the map, and two million Kurds driven from their homes. The villages were forcibly evacuated and later burned or partly destroyed. Nearly 300,000 troops—more than half of Turkey’s armed forces at that time—were stationed in the region.

There were also attacks on Kurdish political parties. In the spring of 1990 the Peoples’ Labour Party (Halkın Emek Partisi, HEP) was formed. It tried to articulate Kurdish identity as far as it could without running into trouble with the vaguely worded Anti-Terror Law. The party was threatened with closure at the behest of State Security Court Chief Prosecutor Nusret Demiral, for making ‘separatist propaganda’ and it was eventually banned in July 1993.

The Democracy Party (Demokrasi Partisi, DEP) was founded in May of 1993 by members of the HEP as a successor party in anticipation of the ban. In March 1994, the Turkish Grand National Assembly withdrew the immunity of the Kurdish MPs in the DEP.

Six of the MPs, Hatip Dicle, Leyla Zana, Orhan Doğan, Sirri Sakik, Ahmet Türk and Mahmut Alınak, were arrested on the withdrawal of their immunity.

The DEP was dissolved by the Constitutional Court on 16 June 1994. On 08 December 1994, five days after the bombing of the offices of Özgür Ülke, Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Ahmet Türk, Orhan Doğan and Selim Sadak were found guilty under Article 168 (2) of the Turkish Penal Code of membership of an illegal armed organisation, and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Sedat Yurtdaş was found guilty under Article 169 of having provided support to an armed organisation and given 7 years six months imprisonment. Mahmut Alınak and Sirri Sakik were found guilty under Article 8 (1) of the Anti-Terror Law of having engaged in separatist propaganda and were sentenced to 3 years six months, plus a fine of 70 million TL, but released on bail.

Aliza Marcus, in her book Blood and Belief, says that ‘[t]here is no question that Kurds gained from the opportunities created when the PKK, starting in the early 1990s, carved out or otherwise gave backing to new, legal Kurdish institutions and publications. A whole generation of journalists developed in Özgür Gündem and its related newspapers, and for the first time, Kurds could read news of direct relevance to their lives.’


TRT TV. ‘Interior minister denies state involvement in Özgür Ülke bombings’ as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (6 December 1994); LexisNexis.

TRT TV. ‘Explosions at offices of pro-Kurdish paper’ as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (5 December 1994); LexisNexis.

Human Rights Watch World Report 1990 – Turkey

Avebury, Eric. Turkey’s Kurdish Policy in the Nineties. Paper presented at the Middle East Studies Association meeting in Washington, DC, December 1995. Accessed at American Kurdish Information Network.

Fraser, Suzan. Pro-Kurdish paper blames state for bombings. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 03 December 1994.

Kanal-6 TV. ‘Paper’s editor vows to keep publishing’ as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (5 December 1994); LexisNexis.

TRT TV. ‘Çiller denies issuing order to bomb newspaper’ as reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (23 December 1994); LexisNexis.

Marcus, Aliza (2007). Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish fight for independence. New York University Press.