Kurdish group urges Turkish prison hunger strikers to stop protest

The Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), a Kurdish umbrella group, which also includes the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has called on hunger strikers in Turkish prisons to cease their protest.

More than 200 inmates are on hunger strike across two dozen prisons in protest of rights violations, prison conditions and the isolation of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. 13 inmates who launched the protest on 15 February have not had any food intake for 63 days.

In a statement on Tuesday the KCK said the prisoners’ action had “strengthened the struggle for democracy against the fascism of the [ruling] AKP and [nationalist] MHP.”

“For this reason there is no need to continue this resistance. Our movement and our people believe that we can can go forward by using different methods of struggle and are therefore appealing to hunger strikers to end the action,” the statement read.

Human rights and health organisations in Turkey have said the situation of hunger strikers, especially those past the 50 day threshold, are critical.

The co-chair of the Diyarbakir Medical Association, Yakup Altas, told Dihaber news agency on Tuesday that urgent action needed to be taken by the Turkish Medical Association or “people will die.”

Altas also criticised the country’s health ministry for its silence on the matter.

“If the requests of prisoners aren’t met there will be deaths. The health minister needs to intervene and try to meet requests.”

A 67 day hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners in 2012 was credited as opening the path to a ceasefire and negotiations between the PKK and Turkish government from 2013-2015.