Indefinite and irreversible hunger strikes initiated by Leyla Güven on November 8, 2018, with the aim of lifting the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan and three other prisoners held in Imrali Prison are still maintained by thousands of people in over 100 prisons in Turkey.
People who ended their lives in protest against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan held in İmralı Prison left us in deep sorrow. Uğur Şakar in Germany on 21 February 2019, Zülküf Gezen in Tekirdağ No 2 F Type Prison on 17 March 2019, Ayten Beçet in Gebze M Type Women’s Closed Prison on 22 March 2019, and Zehra Sağlam in Erzurum Oltu T Type on 24 March 2019 ended their lives. First, we would like to express our condolences to the families and friends of those people.
We want to remind that life is sacred. As human rights defenders, we defend the right to live under all conditions. The demands expressed in the ongoing hunger strikes for ending of the isolation practices that we all oppose are understood by the human rights movement and all efforts and attempts are being made to remove isolation in accordance with human rights law. Prisoners' voices have been heard. It should not be perceived negatively by prisoners that the democratic public has not responded sufficiently yet because of the ongoing local election process and the government's control over the media. In this respect, the government was contacted and were informed about the demands. Therefore, there will definitely be a point where the demands of prisoners for the termination of isolation are met.
We would like to request strongly that no one in prison or anywhere end their lives. We certainly do not approve of such actions. We are aware of the political and psychological environment in which prisoners live. However, it is unacceptable for people to end their lives at the point of removal of isolation and such actions should not be attempted. In this regard, we would like to remind those who may have an influence on the prisoners of their responsibilities.
We demand an end to isolation practices, which contradict the Nelson Mandela Rules and Turkish laws, and we invite the government to act responsibly and to lift the isolation in prisons.
The rights of the prisoners’ families were disregarded by not being allowed to hold a funeral for their beloved ones, but on the contrary the deceased were buried at night by policemen in contradiction with the beliefs, cultures and traditions of families and no funeral ceremony was permitted. The right to burial is a right that must be respected in order to enable the families to experience the mourning processes. We demand political power to abandon this disrespectful and illegitimate stance against funerals and to let families go through usual mourning processes.
The ongoing phase of the indefinite hunger strikes carried out by thousands of prisoners is quite serious. Independent committees and physicians should be allowed to enter the prisons in order to monitor the health conditions of the hunger strikers and to reveal to them that the demands have been heard by the democratic public. The government should be aware of its responsibility in this respect and must meet these demands as soon as possible.
As human rights organizations, we have been closely monitoring the prisons, conducting visits through lawyers, conveying the demands to the political power, making attempts to encourage the democratic public to act more sensitively, and continuing to make the international community and international organizations take steps to fulfil their responsibilities. Briefly, we would like to share with the public once again that we have been making every effort to ensure that the hunger strikers are not harmed and that isolation is to be abolished.
We hope our call is taken seriously and no other person puts an end to their lives.
Human Rights Association (HRA)
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)