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November 15, 2012, Thursday

Hunger strike conundrum

It has been a total of 65 days since Kurdish inmates from prisons across Turkey began a hunger strike to demand an improvement in the prison conditions of terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan as well as greater rights for Kurds in general, such as receiving an education and giving court testimony in their mother tongue.

The government has so far refused to take any action on these demands, though it has called for the strikers to end their protest. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even labeled the protest a show. Now that the point of no return is approaching for the strikers, everyone wonders how this protest will end.

Sedat Laçiner, a columnist from the Star daily, describes the kind of circumstances and demands that must be at the center of a hunger strike. He says that it is unreasonable for prisoners to make general demands that will take a long time to be fulfilled. “For instance, hunger strikers cannot say we will be on a hunger strike until the traffic problem is resolved in Turkey,” he says.

Considering the demands of the current prisoners, he thinks their demands will need more time to be met, so it is not right for them to continue the strike.  “They want to see the start of education being provided in the mother tongue, but this is not something that can be made to happen quickly. Similarly, their demand for the right to a defense in the mother tongue is not one which can be fulfilled in just a matter of several days,” he says. Laçiner argues that the Kurdish prisoners’ hunger strike is even more than a show. “The protestors were terrorists when they were full, and this fact does not change when they go on a hunger strike. What the PKK wants is not the fulfillment of the strikers’ demands, but for them to lose their lives like suicide bombers,” says Laçiner.

The Milliyet daily’s Fikret Bila says the attitude of both the government and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), some of whose deputies also joined the hunger strike, provoked the crisis because none of them adopted a constructive approach. He thinks the government is likely to intervene and force the strikers to eat. According to Bila, if the BDP had made efforts to ensure the end of the hunger strike without the strikers’ demands being met and if it had negotiated with the government, the crisis would not have grown to what it has become today.

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