News / Europe

Turkish Government Seeks End to 8-Week Hunger Strike

Kurdish women demonstrate near a prison in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.Kurdish women demonstrate near a prison in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.
x
Kurdish women demonstrate near a prison in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.
Kurdish women demonstrate near a prison in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.
Dorian Jones
Kurdish inmates in dozens of Turkish prisons are conducting a hunger strike to pressure the government to grant greater Kurdish rights and better conditions for a jailed militant leader. With concerns growing about the condition of the hunger-strikers, efforts are intensifying to resolve the protest.

For nearly 60 days, about 700 imprisoned Kurdish activists have been drinking water with sugar, salt and vitamins, but no solid food.  

They are demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in court cases and in school. They are also demanding free access to lawyers for the imprisoned leader of the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan.

Turkey's medical association is expressing concern about the condition of some of the hunger-strikers and warns fatalities are possible.

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party parliamentary deputy Ertugrul Kurkcu says resolution of the protest could be near.

"Everything is now hinging around the talks between the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) leaders, the minister of justice, and the president," said Kurkcu. "I think there is going to be a final decision by the government, and I am optimistic."

Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced the government is prepared to meet one of the strikers' demands.

He says the prime minister has agreed people should be able to defend themselves in court in the language in which they can best express themselves. He said the justice minister is drafting a bill to send to parliament to become law.

The announcement came as a surprise to much of the Turkish media. For weeks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the protest, claiming the hunger strikers were all in good health and saying he would not be blackmailed. But pressure has been building on the government.

Protests across the country are on the rise amid media reports about the deteriorating health of the hunger-strikers. Some demonstrations have ended in violence.  

Pro-Kurdish deputy Kurkcu, who met with some of the prisoners, warns no one should doubt their commitment.

"They are absolutely determined because these people have met with every severe condition of being and have been subject to heavy torture, and have been spending at least 14 years in prison," said Kurkcu. "I met one person who was 32 years in prison. So these people are very serious when they speak about matters relating with life and death."

The prospect of prisoners dying is expected to lead to increasing international pressure, in particular from the European Union, which Turkey is hoping to join.  

On Saturday, Erdogan strongly attacked the protest and sent a veiled threat to the imprisoned PKK leader that the majority of Turkey wants a restoration of the death penalty. Ocalan was sentenced to death, but it was commuted to a life sentence after the abolition of capital punishment in 2004.

Political columnist Cengiz Aktar of Today’s Zaman newspaper warns the country is at a critical point.

"The minister of justice is really trying to do his best, but the prime minister is systematically adding oil to the fire and this (is) very dangerous," said Aktar. "And I hope it will not get there, but the ingredients of a civil war is slowly piling up."

Tensions are already high with a marked upsurge in fighting this year between the Turkish state and Kurdish rebels. Observers warn tensions will rise further if fasting prisoners start to die. Turkey has a history of such fatal protests. Activists say more than 100 prisoners associated with hunger strikes against prison conditions have died in the past two decades.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Makshet Kihrjet from: Hungary
November 07, 2012 8:15 PM
Turkey has become a parody... just like Iran is a farce...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs