Hunger strikers’ deteriorating health disregarded by Turkish Justice Ministry

Mardin Prison (File photo).

The People’s Democratic (HDP) Party’s Prison Commission spokesperson Burcu Celik said that authorities from the Ministry of Justice are disregarding the widening hunger strikes by prisoners in Turkey despite many strikers being on the verge of a critical threshold.

“We conducted one-on-one discussions with officials from the Ministry of Justice but the ministry is refusing to take action. Today it is a humanitarian and conscientious imperative to turn our eyes towards prisons,” said Celik, according to a report by Dihaber News Agency on Tuesday.

“Authorities and those responsible for the conditions in prisons must turn their eyes and faces towards the prisons before it’s too late, because their demands are legitimate ones. This is a direct result of the inability of prisoners to find an interlocutor whom they can address in relation to the systematic human rights abuses that have been increasing considerably, especially after the declaration of emergency rule,” added Celik in her statement.

The Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) also held a press conference in Istanbul on Tuesday and said that prisoners’ rights are are arbitrarily ignored and abused by prison administrations.

According to reports, inmates are being forced to wear ‘terrorist’ tags and are prevented from social activities and access to books, while guards have also carried out attacks on hunger strikers.

A total of 33 political prisoners in Izmir’s Sakran Prison have entered the 42nd day of their indefinite hunger strike while 7 prisoners in Sincan Prison in Ankara have entered day 34; 16 prisoners in Edirne Prison are on day 32 and 8 prisoners in Van prison entered day 21. Inmates in Menemen Prison on hunger strike have entered day 22, those in Giresun Prison day 14, and those in Hilvan and Ermenek Prisons day 12. Ten more inmates from Bolu Prison have joined the hunger strike as of yesterday.

Prisoners are demanding an end to the bad treatment and rights violations against political prisoners and an end to the destruction of Kurdish towns. Protestors also want a return to the solution process of the Kurdish question and an end to the isolation of prisoners in Imrali Prison, including PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Lawyers and family members have expressed fears that hunger strikers are beginning to experience serious health problems in the past week.

A 67 day hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners in 2012 was brought to an end after Turkish authorities lifted the isolation on Abdullah Ocalan, who then called for an end to teh strike. The protest paved the way for negotiations and a 2-year ceasefire and solution process between the Turkish government and PKK.