On 31 March 2017, our co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and MP Abdullah Zeydan, both held captive in Edirne High Security Prison, have initiated a hunger strike in solidarity with the protest actions of political prisoners across Turkey.
The current wave of prison hunger strikes started in early February against systematic rights violations that took on a further dramatic character with the state of emergency decrees issued after the failed July 15 coup. The decree laws imposed severe restrictions on prisoners right to legal council and defense, visitation by their lawyers and family, and communication with the outside world. Meanwhile, arbitrary and inhumane punitive practices reached alarming rates in prisons; in forms such as extensive torture, solitary confinement, exile, unannounced ward searches, seizure of personal properties, and restrictions on access to TV and radio broadcast, newspapers, books and letters addressed to them (See appendix – HDP Communiqué, ‘Hunger Strikes Begin in Turkish Prisons’ (pdf)).
Currently, more than one hundred political prisoners continue hunger strike protests in multiple prisons. As of today, the protest in İzmir Aliağa-Şakran Prison is on day 44, in Edirne Prison on day 35, in Ankara Sincan Prison on day 36, in Tekirdağ Prison on day 23, in Tarsus Prison on day 16, and in Van Prison on day 10. The protests involve indefinite and non-alternate total fasting. The health of some protesters has already reached a critical stage.
In their message to the public, HDP Co-chair Mr Demirtaş and MP Mr Zeydan said:
“Due to the Edirne Prison’s stance of no-dialogue, unlawful and inhumane practices against other prisoners, and the complete lack of good intention on the part of prison administration to end the hunger strikes that have been continuing for days, we, too, from Friday onwards, will begin a hunger strike. We invite the public to show sensitivity regarding the hunger strikes and rights violations continuing in prisons”.
On 1 April 2017, three other imprisoned HDP deputies, Mr Ayhan Bilgen, Ms Meral Danış Beştaş, and Mr Nihat Akdoğan, and also imprisoned co-chair of Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Ms Sebahat Tuncel, will also start a hunger strike to raise public awareness and sensitivity on the issue. On March 30 the imprisoned spokeswoman of HDP Women Assembly MP Ms. Besime Konca ended her five-day-long hunger strike at Kandıra Prison. She is continued by Ms Ayla Akat Ata, imprisoned former MP and spokeswoman of Free Women’s Congress.
We call on all international democratic institutions to urge relevant Turkish authorities to start dialogue with the prisoners and put an end to severe violations in prisons. We urge all concerned international human rights organizations to urgently send missions to Turkey, investigate the issue on the ground, raise awareness and take immediate action to stop inhumane conditions in Turkish prisons.
Deputy Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
Member of Parliament