Women gather outside Istanbul prison in support of hunger striker Leyla Güven

Almost two dozens of women gathered outside an Istanbul prison in support of jailed Turkish lawmaker Leyla Güven, who has been on hunger strike for the past 33 days.

Güven, who is a member of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has been on hunger strike in Diyarbakir Prison in southeastern Turkey since November 8. She is protesting against the solitary confinement that has been imposed on the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Members of HDP’s Istanbul Women’s Provincial Council and the activist Tevgera Jinên Azad said their protest outside the Bakırköy Women’s Closed Penitentiary was also aimed at highlighting how the gains from years of struggle for women’s rights was being undermined by the Turkish state.

Muazzez Töre from the HDP’s Istanbul Women’s Provincial Council said that “women NGOs”, “women civil initiatives”  were not accessible and that they were being run by men, and not women. She pointed out than many women’s associations had been shut down in the name of the state of emergency that was implemented by the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the July 2016 failed coup. She said that even organizations where women sought refuge from domestic violence had been shut down by the state.

Referring to Güven’s incarceration, Töre that despite a judge ordering Güven’s release after being elected as a deputy to the Turkey’s parliament, the Grand National Assembly, had still not been released.

“Despite being chosen as a deputy she has not been released. The decision not to release her is a political one,” said Töre.

Women gathered outside Istanbul’s Bakırköy Women’s Closed Penitentiary to support prisoned lawmaker Leyla Güven. She has been on hunger strike since November 8, 2018. Date: 12/10/2018 (Photo:IPA)

On June 29, 2018 a court ordered the release of Güven, who had been detained on terror-related charges since January 22. The court in the southeastern Diyarbakır province reportedly ruled that there was insufficient evidence. The ruling also came five days after Güven’s election as a deputy to the Turkish parliament.

However, a higher court then overturned that ruling. Töre said that the deputy chairman and another judge did not attend the higher court’s proceedings, because they were ostensibly “on leave”. The remaining judges on the panel then opted to detain Güven despite the fact that as a deputy, according to the law, she should have immunity from prosecution.

“This situation reveals that the current judiciary operates on the command of the AKP Palace regime,” said Töre.

Öcalan has been detained since 1999 on the Imrali island prison in the Marmara Sea. The PKK has been designated by the Turkish government, the European Union and the US to be a terror organization. However, the United Nations and countries such as Switzerland, China, India, Russia and Egypt have not designated it as a terrorist organization.

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