Prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey forced to wear ‘terrorist’ tags

Hunger strikes started by prisoners convicted of being members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdistan Free Women’s Party (PAJK) on 15 February in Turkish prisons have entered the 40th day, amid “Nazi-like conditions,” a family member of a striker told Kom News.

According to reports emerging from prisons, the health conditions of hunger strikers who launched the protest are deteriorating.

A statement made by the Izmir Prison Solidarity Initiative on 19 March said prisoners who had begun the strike had lost between 7-8 kilos and their conditions were worsening with many suffering from high blood pressure and blackouts.

A previous statement by the same group on 24 February had said that the hunger strike had started after a group of 50 prison wardens in Sakran Prison had attacked several inmates on the pretext of refusing to take off their shoes.

“Hunger strikers are demanding an end to oppression and raids by wardens, the reinstatement of communication between wards, a lifting of the ban on social activities, for books to be allowed and for ill prisoners to be treated,” the statement read.

Prisoners are also calling for an end to the isolation of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and other inmates in Imrali Prison and for “the restart of the negotiations for a peaceful and political solution to the war in Kurdistan.”

The family member of a prisoner in Sakran, where the protest began and where 18 people are on hunger strike, spoke to Kom News on condition of anonymity and said prison authorities were trying to impose “Nazi-like conditions” on inmates.

“Prison authorities are forcing prisoners to wear tags that write ‘terrorist’ on them. My sister told me that all their rights are being violated.”

Books apart from holy texts have also been banned, the source said, adding, “authorities are preventing prisoners from family visits and are being told that this is the law now.”

“Most of the older prison workers have been replaced by younger personnel who have been trained to have enmity and anger against the prisoners,” the source told Kom News.

Speaking to Gazete Duvar, lawyer Sule Recepoglu said the suppression of the opposition outside was being reflected inside prison.

“Prisoners rights to social activities and family visits are being violated. Complete isolation is being imposed, as well as other forms of suppression. For years there have been campaigns for severely and terminally ill patients to be released, but to no avail. In fact conditions are now worse as violations amass.”

While at least 54 people in five different prisons are on hunger strike for an indefinite period of time until their demands are met, hundreds of others in different prisons will continue the protest until 15 April.

Family members of those on hunger strike are also preparing to join the protest and have called on government officials to meet demands, according to a report in Gazete Karinca.

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.