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November 01, 2012, Thursday

Engaging in politics through hunger strikes?

This is the 52nd day since hundreds of Kurdish inmates across Turkey launched a collective hunger strike to protest the alleged isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization, in captivity on İmralı island in the Sea of Marmara.

 Columnists argue that the hunger strikes should not be seen as an expression of the inmates’ demands but rather as the fulfillment of an order to carry the hunger strike to the end by PKK power centers.

Taraf’s Yıldıray Oğur lashes out against some in the media who call the hunger strike a “democratic right” and see it as a “sacrifice” in the Kurdish fight for independence, and who call on the government to meet the strikers’ demands. It is actually a demand that could be made in thousands of other ways. And there is no answer other than “demagogy” to the question of why free politicians or activists are not on the death fast instead of inmates already living in difficult conditions in jails.

Journalist Gülay Göktürk poses the question: “If a group of inmates starts a hunger strike demanding that the 10 percent election threshold should be dropped, will we say it is a rightful demand and tell the government to meet it? Is it really the way to do politics?” Continuing in this vein, Oğur asks, if this is the way to make the government acquiesce to demands, then do we need Parliament, elections or politics? If, God forbid, some inmates become permanently ill or lose their lives, those directing the hunger strike or encouraging people to continue with it will be the ones to blame, the Taraf columnist notes.

Bugün’s Ahmet Taşgetiren dwells on recent calls for Öcalan to join the strike, describing such calls as dramatic and ridiculous. Could a man who is almost idolized in Kurdish politics and who sends youngsters to their deaths without hesitation go on a hunger strike? Death and hunger strikes are always the domain of the weak and of Kurdish youngsters recruited from schools or from the streets and used to carry out the terrorist organization’s plans. Kurdish politics feeds on these youngsters’ lives. And breaking this vicious cycle is the state’s greatest challenge, Taşgetiren concludes.

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