ERBIL, Kurdistan region — More than 700 Kurdish prisoners across Turkey have joined a hunger strike in support of the Kurdish cause in that country since September 12, 2012.

In a written statement, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK) has called for “mass resistance” on 30 October. A petition launched by several scholars called on the Turkish government to listen to the demands of the prisoners.

According to a report by CNN, the protesters have three main demands: the release of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan, the right to education in Kurdish language and the use of Kurdish in Turkish courts.

The PKK-leader, arrested in 1999, currently serves a life sentence in a prison on Imrali Island and he has been in solitary confinement for more than a year, according to Kurdish activists.

Appealing to the international community about the conditions of the prisoners on strike and the jailed PKK leader, the chairs of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtas and Gultan Kisanak released a joint statement on Monday.

“Mr. Öcalan is being held in a single cell for past 13 years in the island of Imrali and he have been subjected to an strict isolation for the past 14 months,” read the BDP statement. “While the isolation of a political prisoner is a violation of a basic human rights and against the law, It is also culminating a difficulty to find a solution for the Kurdish conflict. This is because there are an important portion of the Kurdish people are considering Mr. Öcalan as the national leader.”

The statement points out the worsening health conditions for many of the prisoners.

“The health status of 142 political prisoners that began the hunger strike with the first two groups are severely impaired and their life is under extreme danger and at great risk,” the statement read.

An online petition, signed by more than 1200 people and launched by academics with expertise in Kurdish affairs, called on the Turkish government to listen to the demands of the hunger strikers. But so far, the government has ignored the demands and called on the prisoners to end their protests.

“The prisoners’ demands consist primarily of the right to defense in mother tongue and freeing Abdullah Öcalan from solitary confinement. We would like to express our full support of these demands since they are based on fundamental human rights. We therefore urge the Turkish government to enter in constructive dialogue with the prisoners to respond to their demands,” the petition underlined.

Kurdish Assistant Professor Hisyar Ozsoy at the University Michigan-Flint, who signed the petition, told Rudaw that it is important to sign the petition.

“We may gather 100 thousand signatures, but they would not help at one point, if they are not publicized widely.” He added, “things are getting worse. In Diyarbakir and Siirt prisons, some women prisoners are in critical condition, including, I guess, Selma Irmak, the ex-co-chair of DTP and the parliamentarian of Sirnak province.”

The petition was also undersigned by Professor Büsra Ersanli, who was released in July with 15 other suspects, pending trial in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)-case, in which hundreds of Kurds were arrested. She supported the petition, since “most of them are my friends and what they ask is legitimate.”

In front of the European parliament, on 29 October, Kurdish politicians, journalists and intellectuals launched a sit-in in front of the European Parliament building in Brussels urging the European Parliament to act.

According to the Firat News Agency, police in Brussels arrested two Kurdish journalists, Erdal Er, and Ferda Cetin, during the protest.

In a statement, the group said, “We, as Kurdish politicians, journalists, authors, artists and soon all representatives of Kurdish society, call on the EU Parliament and the EU Commission to take action immediately by adopting political and diplomatic sanctions in order to force the AKP [Justice and Development Party] Government to stop its genocidal politics against Kurds.”