Hunger Strikes in Turkey: A Quiet Crisis

November 5, 2012

With relatively little attention from the international press, a quiet crisis is developing in Turkey, where hundreds of prisoners are engaged in mass hunger strikes.   The strikes originated in mid-September, with initial demands centering on Kurdish language education and the on-going refusal of Turkish authorities to allow PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan, to meet with his lawyers.  Additional hunger strikes have sprung up in scores of prisons throughout the country, with demands diversifying as the strikes have spread and at least seven hundred men and women now participating.   Because the hunger strikers are allowing themselves water fortified with salt, sugar and vitamins to prolong the strike, these protests are likely to be long, slow, and painful.  The first strikers have already gone without food for nearly two months and doctors have indicated that some hunger strikers are nearing death.  Outside the prisons, violent clashes between protestors and law enforcement officials continue.

There are reports of ill-treatment of hunger strikers at Silivri, Şakran and Tekirdağ prisons.  Other reports indicate that, in some cases, authorities have unlawfully limited the hunger strikers’ access to drinking water, sugar, salt, and vitamins.  As a recent statement by Amnesty International highlights, “hunger strikers are engaging in a peaceful form of protest and the Turkish authorities have an obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression of the prisoners, including their right to protest in such a manner.”  Yet, it seems Turkish authorities are failing in this basic human rights obligation.

Help protect those participating in the hunger strike. Write the Turkish Ministry of Justice and the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights. 

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