Thursday, November 8, 2012

Will Erdogan do nothing to save the lives of Kurdish hunger strikers?

    Thursday, November 08, 2012   No comments

If you knew that more than 700 of your citizens might die soon, what would you do to stop it? That is the question that the Turkish government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, faced with the massive hunger strike by Kurdish prisoners, now in its 58th day, need to answer.

But the answer so far seems to be "nothing". Very few in the west seem to be aware of the issue, with international media focused more on geopolitical concerns and the ongoing Syrian crisis. Yet they have a question of their own to answer: can Turkey still be held up as a role model for the Arab spring movement as it becomes more and more apparent that the Turkish government is apathetic towards the democratic rights and demands of its almost 20 million-strong Kurdish minority?

The hunger strikes started on 12 September with 65 prisoners. The official number has since reached 716, with claims from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) that elected officials from the party might join the ranks if their demands continue to be ignored.

Consisting largely of Kurds jailed after being linked to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), the urban wing of the Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK), a guerilla group recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU, the hunger strikers have three key demands. These are an end to the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK, in jail since 1999 and without any access to his lawyers for almost a year now; the right to defend themselves in Kurdish in courts; and the right to study in Kurdish.


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