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Kurdish parliamentarian calls for an end to suicides aimed at lifting isolation on jailed leader

Leyla Guven, an MP of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has called for an end to suicides, which have reached four, by hunger strikers who have been demanding an end to the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

On the 137th day of her hunger strike, Guven made the call in Kurdish, via Dengê Welat Radio, on Sunday, according to ANF news agency. 

“Friends, we must unite to make this hunger strike spread all over the world in order to achieve the result. This is our purpose. More importantly, we must raise the morale of our friends in prison. Therefore, I take care of myself, of my life. I want you to join the hunger strike actions and not actions of sacrifice,” Guven said, calling on hunger strikers not to end their lives.

The female lawmaker described the suicides as “valuable,” but urged, “We have already taken action. We are close to getting a result. We must support the hunger strike activists. We must not take on any new actions. I hope my friends will continue in this way.”

In her message, the politician invited her comrades to keep their morale and motivation high. “Every friend who carries out a sacrifice is actually taking a piece of my body away, a piece of my spirit and heart. We need to be strong and in high spirit. Our ideology is based on the fact that revolutionaries should not die easily. They must resist to the end. We have been resisting,” she said.

Guven alleged they are moving to a new stage and are close to victory, saying, “We will achieve it, we will win a hundred percent.”

The Kurdish MP initiated “a partial and indefinite hunger strike” on November 7, 2018, calling for the lifting of what she calls the isolation of Ocalan by the Turkish government.

Since then, participation in the strike has spread among Kurdish inmates across Turkey, as well as among HDP lawmakers.

Three inmates commit suicide within a week, amid increasing participation in hunger strikes

Zulkuf Gezen, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 for an alleged PKK bomb attack in 2007, hanged himself in his cell on March 17.

A female inmate, Ayten Becer, hanged herself at the Gebze Closed Women’s Prison on Saturday.

On Sunday, Zehra Saglam, another female prisoner, was the third to take her life behind bars in the eastern province of Erzurum.

Ugur Sakar, who set himself on fire in front of the Krefeld Court in Germany on February 20, to protest Ocalan’s isolation, died in a hospital on Friday.

Strikes continue despite partial lifting of isolation

Turkish authorities allowed Mehmet Ocalan to visit his brother, Abdullah Ocalan, on January 12, after the strikes began. According to supporters, this was as a result of the hunger strike, however, they do not consider this one allowance enough reason to stop the strike, as they have been demanding regular visits to Ocalan by his family and lawyers.

Ocalan, who has been serving a life sentence since 1999, has been held mostly in solitary confinement in Imrali, an island prison in the Marmara Sea, according to media reports. He has not been allowed to see his lawyers since July 27, 2011, and the last time he could see his family was in 2014.

He has also been barred from meeting with pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers since April 2015, when the peace process that was aiming to end the decades-long conflict between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and PKK failed.

In a press release, HDP called on the Turkish government to act responsibly and fulfill the demand of breaking the isolation. “From now on, the government will be politically responsible for every negative consequence and death,” HDP warned.

Turkey accuses the HDP of having links with PKK, an insurgent group seeking self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Several party seniors, including co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, have been jailed on various charges, including “managing a terrorist organization.”

Police raid pro-Kurdish HDP’s headquarters, 5 detained for hunger strike

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