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1 November 2012

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Kurdish hunger strikers could die within 10 days – Turkish Medical Association

Former H-Blocks hunger striker Pat Sheehan, now a member of the Assembly

Turkish Medical Association: 'Our worry is that after around 40 days lasting damage begins to emerge and after 60 days deaths may begin'

KURDISH PRISONERS on hunger strike in Turkey could start to die with the next 10 days, according to Turkey’s main medical association.

Sinn Féin MPs, MLAs, TDs and senators – including former hunger strikers such as Pat Sheehan MLA – have signed the following petition backed by Gareth Peirce, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Bruce Kent, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky and Mark Thomas, among others.

Although the 600-700 prisoners are taking sugar, water and vitamins that would prolong their lives, the head of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) told Reuters:

“Our worry is that after around 40 days lasting damage begins to emerge and after 60 days deaths may begin.”

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.

KurdOcalanThe 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 (pictured above).

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, are 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.

 For information contact:

Peace in Kurdistan

Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question

Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk

www.peaceinkurdistancampaign.wordpress.com

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

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