Many of his friends have died during the hunger strikes in Turkey and many more died as a result of the inhuman prison conditions and torture.
For how long have you been on hunger strike in Strasbourg?
On 1st March, 15 Kurds from several European countries have joined the hunger strike, ongoing indefinitely, which was started by the 400 political prisoners in Turkey in the middle of February. Additionally, around 35 more people take part in our hunger strike rotating on a weekly basis. On weekdays we organise rallies in front of the European Council or the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (and of inhumane or degrading treatment), CPT.
Can you explain your goals and what has moved you to such drastic action?
It is about the peaceful resolution to the Kurdish question. Achieving this would be a huge step forward for Turkey. The violent policies of the AKP government, the suppression of all opposition, and the war, must finally be stopped. Abdullah Ocalan has been blocked from communicating with the outside world through isolation on Imrali for more than 230 days now. Also, more than 6,500 Kurdish politicians and human rights activists have been arrested since 2009 under the “KCK proceedings”, among whom are 6 members of parliament, 31 mayors, 36 lawyers, 100 journalists, hundreds of trade-unionists and innumerable women’s activists.
In Turkey there are more than 10,000 political prisoners; do you demand their release?
Yes. It is time to look for a diplomatic solution between the state and the PKK and time to end the war. Abdullah Ocalan should play a similar role in resolving the conflict as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa. Through our hunger strike, we want to provoke the European Council and CPT to exert political pressure so that the government observes human rights and proceeds on a path towards a political resolution.
Prisoners complain of unbearable cold in winter and intolerable heat in summer. What are the conditions like in Turkish prisons today?
The conditions are still inhumane. As well as isolation in the F-type prisons, political prisoners face violence and torture. There is no adequate medical care. The prisons are overcrowded and the prisoners undernourished. Since my time in prison there have been no substantial changes. The political prisoners on hunger strike are confronted with additional drastic punishments. Isolation, the refusal of visitation rights, and a ban on lawyer visits are only some examples.
In Cizre, near the Iraqi border, police smashed facial bones of the chairperson of the BDP with the butts of their guns at protests during Newroz, after having shot at the party building with tanks and machine guns and storming inside. How does it look for the Kurdish question?
The AKP pursues authoritarian, feudal, and fascist policies, which they try to cover up with supposedly democratic reforms. The BDP politician Haci Zengin was shot with a tear gas grenade in Istanbul on 18th March. During Newroz, the police attacked the population everywhere with tear gas, sometimes also with more powerful weapons. Ahmet Turk and other members of the BDP were victims of targeted attacks, 679 were arrested. There were more than 200 severely injured. The goal of the AKP has been for a long time to demoralise the Kurdish people and to prevent resistance. Several million Kurds during Newroz demanded peace talks, democratic autonomy and chanted: “We are the PKK.” On 21st March, Prime Minister Erdogan announced, among other things, that the military violence will be stepped up as a reaction to the strength of the opposition.
You have created a communication bureau and receive a lot of visitors from France, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, amongst other places. What do you hope for the future?
The ruling elites in Europe are ignoring the situation of the Kurds due to strategic and economic interests. Like the Turkish government, they therefore consider legitimate human rights resistance as terrorism. It is important to win through social and humanitarian action. Through drastic action like this hunger strike, we give our bodies to the cause of breaking the silence over the actions of Turkey. We appeal to those who have moral outlook and a conscience. We want to wake the people up. In Turkey, the biggest terrorist is the state itself. To make people aware of that reality is why we are on hunger strike.
27 March, 2012