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Hundreds of Kurdish prisoners on prolonged hunger strike

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

OPEN LETTER TO TURKISH PRIME MINISTER TAYYIP ERDOGAN

Hundreds of Kurdish prisoners are now taking part in a hunger strike which they have declared is to be indefinite.

This hunger strike began on 12 September, a not insignificant date in Turkey’s political history, with 63 people, including 13 women, in seven prisons. The numbers have grown rapidly with hundreds more Kurdish political prisoners joining the action and it is reported that 600 prisoners are currently on indefinite hunger strike.

The prisoners' demands appear simple and reasonable: the right to education and legal defence in their mother tongue of Kurdish; and the start of direct peace talks to resolve the outstanding conflict by peaceful, constitutional means and with the full participation of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

If nothing is done to meet the demands of the hunger strikers, more martyrs will be added to the Kurdish dead and it is feared that the situation could rapidly take the country to the brink of chaos. Renewed conflict would become inevitable if this action were to end in fatalities. We therefore call on the Turkish government to respond positively to the legitimate demands made by the hunger strikers.

The majority of those who have joined this action are members of the Peace and Democracy Party, BDP, including elected politicians and officials; they are responsible citizens striving to do the best for their communities who have found themselves detained and gaoled on the basis of largely spurious allegations.

It is clear that the Kurdish citizens in very large numbers regard Ocalan as their political leader and they have chosen him to speak on their behalf. Ocalan himself has shown consistently that he is ready to reach agreement; he has put forward many constructive proposals as a basis for negotiations.

It is right to see Ocalan as a responsible leader of a responsible peace-loving people. It is high time that Turkey changes its approach to the Kurds and ceases its attempts to demonise the Kurdish people, their organisations and their leaders; Kurds should not be seen as enemies in a war but as partners in the pursuit of peace. They want to help build a modern, truly democratic Turkey.

It can hardly be surprising that it is from inside Turkey's notorious prisons that this drastic action has been initiated. For nearly four years, the world has looked on aghast as Turkey has been imprisoning Kurds in their thousands.

Ostensibly, this is part of a counter-terrorism strategy to safeguard the unity of the country allegedly threatened by guerrilla violence. In reality, the anti-terror law has been used to punish, isolate, and silence the Kurdish community.

Anyone who has been courageous enough to criticise Turkey’s militarisation of the Kurdish conflict, or who has demanded the right to speak their own language in school or to have their Kurdish identity recognised, is criminalised and arrested.

The Turkish Government has a responsibility to resolve this outstanding conflict in a spirit of justice, democratic inclusiveness and respect for the rights of all the country’s citizens.

The individuals who have taken their decision to join this hunger strike are demonstrating their dedication and commitment to a cause that is unquestionably just and right.

The men and women on hunger strike see no other avenues open to them when faced with a situation where elected politicians are criminalised and Kurdish community leaders are harassed, detained and sent to court to face grotesque show trials.

These repressive measures shame Turkey and represent a dangerous political course that is now threatening to bring calamity on the country. All Turkey’s citizens, Turks and Kurds equally, will suffer as will future generations if the conflict and animosities are permitted to linger on and escalate.

We have no hesitation in expressing support for the demands of those on hunger strike -

Education in the mother tongue;

The right to use Kurdish in defence in trials;

Respect for the Kurdish people’s democratic rights;

Freedom for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.

SUPPORTED BY
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign Patrons and Friends
Lord Avebury
Lord Rea
Lord Hylton
Lord Dholakia
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Hywel Williams MP
Martin McGuinness MP
Conor Murphy MP
Michelle Gildernew MP
Paul Maskey MP
Pat Doherty MP
Seán Crowe, Teachta Dala and Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora
Elfyn Llwyd MP
John Austin, former MP
Jim Cunningham MP
Mike Hancock MP
Jill Evans MEP
Jean Lambert MEP
Ana Miranda MEP
Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer
Prof Bill Bowring
Michael Mansfield QC, human rights lawyer
Bruce Kent, Vice-President Pax Christi
Margaret Owen OBE
Prof Mary Davis
Louise Christian, human rights lawyer
Frances Webber, human rights lawyer
Stan Newens, President “Liberation”
Revd Richard Carter, Priest, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
Julie Christie
Noam Chomsky
John Berger
Edward Albee
Mark Thomas
Joe Ryan, Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
Dafydd Iwan, Past President, Plaid Cymru
Melanie Gingell, barrister
Martha Jean Baker, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Val Swain, NETPOL (Network for Police Monitoring)
Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
Robert Phillipson, Professor emeritus
Kariane Westrheim, PhD, Associate professor University of Bergen, Chair of EUTCC
Hans Branscheidt, BOD EUTCC, Co-Editor of Development Magazine "Weltsichten", Author
Prof Michael M. Gunter, Dept. of Political Science, Tennessee Technological University
Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Barry White, NUJ delegate to the European Federation of Journalists - personal capacity.
Dr Vicki Sentas, School of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Dr Alexandra Pillen, Department of Anthropology, UCL
Dr Vicki Sentas, School of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney
Khatchatur I. Pilikian / Professor of Music & Art / Socialist History Society
Nick Hildyard, policy analyst
Hugo Charlton, barrister
Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation
Alain Hertzmann, Branch Secretary London LNW9708 Unite
Stephen Smellie, Depute Convenor, UNISON Scotland
Paul Burnham, member of the UNISON Housing Associations Branch
Keith Flett, Secretary of the Haringey Trades Union Council
David Morgan, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Melanie Sirinathsingh, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign
Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

4 November 2012


For information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk  
www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.wordpress.com

Contacts: Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh - Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596

Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Mark Thomas


***

GUE/NGL Pres Conference
Hunger strike in Turkey: MEP back from delegation in Turkey

MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat (delegation of elected representatives to Turkey from the 31st of October to the 7th of November)

MEP Jurgen Klute (EP-Kurds Friendship Group)

Eyyup Doru (Representative of the BDP in Europe)


Thursday 8/11/12, 10:30, Room ASP 5 G2, European Parliament, BRUSSELS - BELGIUM

GUE/NGL press contact:
Gianfranco Battistini + 32 475 646628
gianfranco.battistini@europarl.europa.eu

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