Hungerstrikes Continue As Protests Spread To More Turkish Prisons

Ignored by the mainstream media, political prisoners in Turkey have been on hungerstrike for several weeks to demand improved prison conditions. Although the hungerstrike by prisoners in Nazilli was called off on December 25, 1997 following successful negotiations with prison officials, the situation has escalated elsewhere, particularly in the high-security prison at Erzurum. 336 political prisoners from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other leftist organizations are on hungerstrike there to protest against special isolation detention conditions. Prisoners Serefkan Kaya, Resul Akkol, and Suleyman Elefkan are said to be in serious condition. Several other prisoners are suffering health problems such as internal bleeding.

But prison officials have so far refused to budge. In a statement published in the pro-Kurdish daily paper 'Ozgur Politika' in Europe, the prisoners said: "All of our efforts, which are directed at compromise and humane demands, and those of the negotiating delegation have not received a single reaction. The state is continuing to pursue its isolation policies."

Protests against inhumane conditions and the introduction of isolation detention are continuing in other prisons as well. In Adiyaman, prisoners have refused food since December 23, 1997. In Halfeti and Diyarbakir, political prisoners began an unlimited solidarity hungerstrike on December 21 due to the "conditions in the high security prison in Erzurum and the oppression in other prisons".

This past weekend, PKK prisoners in Midyat special prison also began to refuse food in order to begin their protest. In order to continue to the strike for as long as possible, and to increase the pressure on the prison officials, the hungerstrike there will be conducted in three-day rotations.

According to the Human Rights Association (IHD) in Erzurum, prisoners in Erzurum went on hungerstrike for a total of 160 days in 1997, so their health is very delicate. In 1996, 12 prisoners [from Turkish revolutionary leftist organizations] died during a 69-day hungerstrike, and dozens were permanently injured by the effects.

(Source: 'junge Welt' - January 7, 1998)
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