Korkut: Hunger strike doubly dangerous due to pandemic

A hunger strike against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and the total disenfranchisement of political prisoners in Turkish jails has been going on for 38 days. CISST activist Berivan Korkut points out the double danger posed by Coronavirus pandemic.

Since November 27, political prisoners in Turkey have been on hunger strike against the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and the total disenfranchisement in Turkish prisons. Berivan Korkut from the organization CISST (Civil Society in the Prison System) points out that the action form of the hunger strike has become much more dangerous than before due to the Coronavirus pandemic. She calls on the Turkish authorities to seek dialogue with the prisoners and solve the existing problems.

Korkut confirms that many rights have been taken away from prisoners in the wake of the pandemic. This was shown by the many requests for support made to CISST. Since the beginning of the pandemic, prisoners have not been able to leave their cells, and the restrictions have had a very negative impact on the mental and physical condition of the prisoners. "It is understandable that measures must be taken against the spread of the pandemic. However, the rights of prisoners must be kept in mind," Berivan Korkut says and notes that isolation in prisons has taken on a dangerous dimension.

In a statement released in November, PKK and PAJK prisoners said;  "We are launching an indefinite five-day alternating hunger strike in groups until the absolute isolation imposed on our people is overcome. In the meantime, we renew our call once for the CPT (Committee for the Prevention of Torture) to assume its responsibility to prevent torture and inhuman treatment, to fulfill the requirements of being an independent institution, to observe the rights violations in all prisons, especially in Imralı, and to do what is necessary. Through more organized thinking and emotion, the isolation on our Leader and the peoples can be broken and fascism can be defeated, and the resistance can be crowned with victory.

On this basis, we call on our people, the peoples living in this geography, democratic institutions and all public opinion to contribute to this process.”

Extermination attack on prisoners

The prisoners from PKK and PAJK trials had drawn attention to the intolerable prison conditions in a statement in mid-December. According to them, the repression is worse than in the 1990s, and there is total surveillance in the prisons. The prisoners also assume that the coronavirus is deliberately spread in the prisons. While all new entrants to the prison are required to remain in quarantine for two weeks, prison staff go in and out without protective measures. Large-scale cell searches occur constantly, with no preventive measures taken either.

"As people and prisoners, it is important for us to realize that we are facing an extermination attack and we cannot continue to live normally and behave as usual. The violence against the prisoners is on a much larger scale than in the 1990s and the extermination attack has a qualitatively different objective," the statement by PKK and PAJK prisoners said.