More than 700 Kurdish and leftist political prisoners and 300 Kurdish people worldwide are on an indefinite hunger strike as prison conditions continue to worsen for leftist militants currently imprisoned in Turkey.
The hunger strike was first started by the formerly imprisoned HDP MP Leyla Guven in protest over the increasing isolation of the Kurdish Workers Party leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Guven herself was imprisoned following her public critique of Turkish military actions in the predominately Kurdish town of Afrin.
Worldwide solidarity has been shown to the strike especially within Germany where Left Party and Communist Party of Germany activists joined with Kurdish protesters in numerous cities across Germany. Here in the UK, Imam Sis (a Kurdish rights activist) has been on hunger strike for 52 days and has been supported within his new home of Wales by Liz Saville Roberts MP, of Plaid Cymru. Over in France, Leyla Guven was awarded honorary citizenship of Paris after a motion was tabled and supported by French leftist opposition parties including the French Communist Party and France Insoumise.
The strike has been primarily driven by a desire to end the isolation and horrific conditions faced by Abdullah Ocalan who has been imprisoned since 1999. Since 2011 his lawyers have been refused access to him and have attempted to appeal over 700 times. This is not the first hunger strike in support of Ocalan. In October 2012 several hundred Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike for 68 days until Ocalan demanded for it to be stopped.
The hunger strike comes amid a wave of repression by the Erdogan regime and its benefactors against not only Kurdish activists but also against any form of opposition including numerous radical leftists. It also comes as a part of Turkeys long running history of political violence between right wing Salafists and nationalists against communist revolutionary organisations and pro-Kurdish groups.
Turkish politics lives in the shadow of the years of leadership in the late 70’s that cost the lives of around 5000 people from rival left wing and right wing paramilitaries. The scars of the war can still be seen today as this week saw the imprisonment in Germany of key Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front leader Musa Asoglu who is accused of masterminding the bombing of the United States embassy in 2013 as well as numerous attacks against Erdogans right wing Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party.
Asoglu’s Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group (commonly known as the DHKP-C) is part of the numerous armed opposition groups who have long opposed Erdogan and Turkeys authoritarian rightist governance which has been long plagued by numerous military coups and NATO’s stay behind operational forces known as the Gladio Organization. A 38 year old Maoist peoples war has also gripped the country mainly in the east Tunceli region. The current hunger strike can be seen as part of a long running, although not necessarily united, struggle by Kurds and leftists to topple the Erdogan regime.
The ongoing hunger strikes success hinges on the solidarity shown to oppressed groups in Turkey. A hunger strike in the year 2000 by numerous communist organisations with a total of 816 prisoners in 18 prisons against the holding of political prisoners in isolation eventually succeeded after the martyrdom of 122 people, some of whom died by self-immolation. The Turkish opposition faces a formidable challenge against the Erdogan government but its continued resolve will no doubt see it remain committed to ending the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.