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13 September 2001 Edition

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Hundreds march in Dublin support of Turkish Death Fast

``Ireland is number one in solidarity. We thank you.'' - Gurkan Gur



BY ROISIN DE ROSA ([email protected])

The Turkish Hunger Strike claimed its 33rd victim on Friday 7 September, when Gulay Kavak died in Istanbul after 68 days on Hunger Strike. As the many hundreds of marchers from around the country who came to Dublin last Saturday to demonstrate their solidarity with the Turkish prisoners left the GPO, they heard that the young woman of 29 had died. Gulay Kavak was one of some 40 people who are fasting outside of the jail in solidarity with the prisoners on the death fast.

Saturday's march through the centre of Dublin was a powerful demonstration of solidarity with the hunger strikers in Turkey and their long fight against the F-Type cell prisons. ``This struggle, in which so many have died'' as Sinam Erson, representative of Tayad, the Turkish Prisoners' group in England, said ``is a voice against the fascist Turkish regime, where there is no civil right, no freedom to oppose this brutal regime. The hunger strikers are our hope. They are your hope.''

Sinam Erson himself has been on hunger strike for 25 days in solidarity with his brother, who is one of the hunger strikers in Turkey. ``My brother was captured in 1997 and sentenced to 15 years. There was no defence. Like other prisoners in Turkey he was tortured. The F-Type cells are about forcing the prisoners to give up their beliefs. The prisoners would rather die. We will win or we will die. In Turkey there is no other way.''

There was a large crowd on Saturday, many of whom came from Belfast, and many from the former prisoner groups. They came in memory also of the H-Block hunger strike with which there are so many parallels. Michael Óg Devine, young son of H-Block hunger striker, Mickey Devine, spoke of how it is the same fight that goes on today in Turkey as 20 years ago in the H Blocks, and, as Sinn Féin Councillor Dessie Ellis, who himself went through a long hunger strike when fighting extradition to England, said in his speech, the state's response is also the same.

Councillor Deirdre de Búrca (Green Party) from Wicklow spoke of the political conditions in Turkey, the absence of civil rights, the banning of all opposition to the regime. ``Their application to join the EU should not be entertained, whilst there is so little respect for human rights.''

Maura McCrory and Bernadette McAliskey, who Bernadette described as a ``bad pair of women,'' who together had chaired and spoken at so many H Block meetings two decades ago, also shared this platform.

Gurkan Gur, representing Turkish hunger strikers, spoke of the 15 death houses near Istanbul, in which seven people have already died. ``The locality where the death houses are is surrounded by the military. You are not allowed even to bring flowers there. People are not allowed to go there.'' All publications that talk of the death fast have been banned, their offices trashed, their people arrested and imprisoned.

Gurkan thanked the people for their support, ``The response of the Irish people in Europe is number one at the moment, the work of the groups in Dublin, Belfast, Derry. We thank you, and we salute all those who have died in Turkey and the H Blocks.''

 

Making a difference



BY CHRIS Ó RÁLAIGH

So there we were, amid the steady rain and blustery wind, braving the elements for Ireland, for Sinn Féin and for the Turkish hunger strikers.

Well, it wasn't quite that dramatic, but for a bunch of supposedly street-wise Ógra Shinn Féin activists, we could have picked a more protected environment for our 48-hour solidarity fast.

The Dublin offices of the European Parliament were our target, and after convincing building security that Yes, we did take his threat of Garda intervention very seriously, we set up our protest table. Steady as a rock was our little table; just don't lean too hard on it when you're signing our petition please.

The suits looked mildly surprised at this gentle intrusion into middle-class Dublin, but we remained unperturbed. ``Sign our petition'' ``Help save the lives of the Turkish hunger strikers!''

Suit No. 1 strolls past, pretending to check the time on his watch in a desperate bid to avoid eye contact with these idealistic youngsters. Suit No. 2 stops. ``So what's this hunger strike all about then?'' I take a deep breath and launch into the spiel that I'm to become all too familiar with over the following days. The F-type prisons, inhumane conditions, 24-hour lock-up, and isolation. I give him both barrels.

Visibly surprised, he signs our petition - ``Fair play to youse lads'' - and then he drops a pound coin into my almost empty cup of tea. And he's off, his fist clenched tightly around a leaflet advertising the weekend's Turkish hunger strike rally.

This scene was repeated numerous times over the next 48 hours.

To be honest, I was surprised at the level of positive reaction we encountered. After collecting our 300th signature, I started to feel my spirits lifted. We were making a difference here. And then I thought of the hunger strikers in Turkish prisons, the life-blood, but never their spirit, slowly slipping away.

I looked around at the young faces next to me and I felt proud.

Proud to be a member of Ógra Shinn Féin.

By the time our protest was over, some of us hadn't eaten for nearly two days, had hardly slept and were shivering with cold and again I felt a sense of pride.

Hundreds of leaflets, hundreds of signatures and hours of explaining and arguing had made difference. Of that I felt assured.

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