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November 05, 2012, Monday

‘Hunger games’

As the days pass, the public’s concern for the hundreds of Kurdish inmates who have been on a hunger strike for almost two months -- demanding an end to the isolation of terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, the right to receive an education in Kurdish and the right to give testimony in courts in Kurdish -- escalates further, with many columnists arguing that this crisis can be ended without much damage only if the state would use appropriate medical intervention rather than giving in to the demands.

Bugün’s Adem Yavuz Arslan argues that by forcing the inmates to go on a hunger strike, the PKK wants them to die for some demands that they know are impossible to be met. Thus, the PKK makes its calculations on “death” and not on “success.” With the deaths, they want to galvanize the Kurdish masses around Kurdish nationalism and turn Turkey into an unmanageable country. And this fact actually tells us what to do about it: not to let the strikers die. The state should apply clinically appropriate medical intervention, and it should be careful not to do it by violence like it once did back in 2000. Arslan is sure that some people who claim to be “democratic and humanist” will argue that it is against the free will of those inmates. But he asks if those inmates decided to go on a hunger strike of their own volition, can we expect them to stop it of their own free will now?

Yasin Aktay from Yeni Şafak focuses on the concept of using hunger strikes as a method of exerting political pressure and asks what if some other group goes on a hunger strike in the future demanding that Öcalan be executed? Or what happens when another group goes on a hunger strike to seek the closing of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)? Are we ready to be as understanding as we are today in the face of such demands? Aktay emphasizes that regardless of the content of the demands, hunger strikes cannot be used as a trump card for demands that might create further unfairness. He says: “The only aim of this hunger strike is the death of the strikers. This is why the demands are so impossible to meet. This way, the PKK is for the last time making use of Kurdish inmates who can no longer function in the interests of the PKK since they are in jail. And for this reason, the solution lies with showing zero tolerance to those who see human lives as tools for politics.”

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