THE HUNGER STRIKES IN TURKEY: USING ONE'S BODY AS A MEANS OF COMMUNICATION

http://www.armenianweekly.com/2012/10/31/the-hunger-strikes-in-turkey-using-ones-body-as-a-means-of-communication/
by Ayse Gunaysu
October 31, 2012

Life came to a standstill in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey on Oct.
30. Shops and businesses were closed, except for a few bakeries and
pharmacies. Buses and other means of public transportation were out
of service. Children didn't go to school.

Oct. 30 marked the 48th day of hunger strikes by Kurdish political
prisoners in Turkey-a critical stage for human life, not to mention
lasting disabilities. And the government, instead of taking a step
toward a peaceful settlement, continued to fuel the conflict by
slandering the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Protesters in the streets, both in Istanbul and in the Kurdish
provinces, were tear-gassed, chased, beaten, and taken into police
custody.

Oct. 30 marked the 48th day of hunger strikes by Kurdish political
prisoners in Turkey-a critical stage for human life, not to mention
lasting disabilities. And the government, instead of taking a step
toward a peaceful settlement, continued to fuel the conflict by
slandering the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

At a time when millions of Kurds were waiting for a hopeful sign from
the government, Prime Minister Erdogan on Oct. 30 declared that he
would not give in to the ongoing "blackmailing [of] the government
by deaths in prisons."

The Kurdish prisoners had begun the hunger strikes on Sept. 12. Their
demands: the release of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah
Ocalan from solitary confinement; the right of education in Kurdish;
and the right to defend themselves in Kurdish during trial.

With new groups joining, the number quickly reached 700, with 8,000
people taking part in hunger strikes outside of prison.

Their demands may seem unusual; they do not, after all, involve an
improvement in prison conditions, or the better treatment of inmates.

They are more political in nature.

Ocalan's solitary confinement on Imrali Island in the Marmara Sea
continues under even more severe conditions. For 461 days since July
27, 2011, he has not been allowed to see his lawyers, whose formal
applications for a visit have been denied for unlawful and nonsensical
bureaucratic reasons.

No steps have been taken to resolve the "Kurdish question." The war in
south-eastern Turkey has been going on for 30 years; has claimed some
50,000 lives; has caused the forced evacuation of 3,000 villages,
leaving millions homeless and unemployed in nearby towns; and has
seen thousands of cases of unsolved murders and missing persons under
police/military custody.

No attempt has been made toward a peace-building process by the
government; on the contrary, the conflict continues to claim more
lives and damage the whole social, political, and economic landscape
of Turkey.

The war is not confined to the mountains anymore. It has spread
to the cities, and through mass arrests. For the past two years,
thousands of human rights activists, municipality workers, lawyers,
journalists, intellectuals, students, and trade unionists have been
thrown in jail with no solid legal evidence of having committed any
offense. The ongoing mass arrests have destroyed the entire setting
for a peaceful political struggle by the Kurds and their supporters.

While parliament members have long worked on a new constitution,
there's no indication of any intention to recognize the Kurdish
identity as an equal and active part of Turkey's social and political
life.

What's worse, the government's language grows more and more insulting
when talking about the Kurdish question. The givernment refuses
to enter into any kind of talks with BDP deputies, accusing them
of collaborating with the "terrorists." This, in turn, provokes
ultra-nationalist para-military mobs ready to stage lynching attempts
in the western provinces of Turkey-which has been happening with
greater frequency lately.

BDP deputies are indeed treated like "terrorists" by the police
during peaceful demonstrations, where they are beaten, tear-gassed,
and hit by pressurized jets of water.

An estimated 10,000 Kurdish prisoners in Turkey, who are denied the
right to defend themselves in their mother tongue during trials, are
making a call to Turkey and to the world to hear them. They want us
to see that they have been left with no choice but to use their own
bodies as a means of communication, at the cost of a slow and painful
death in the eyes of a totally indifferent Turkish majority.