Turkish police attack Kurdish inmates’ families

Turkish police used violence on Sunday in a bid to halt a protest in front of the Gebze M Type Prison by Kurdish families who are trying to draw attention to hunger strikes of their children in prison, reported the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya (MA) news agency.

Leyla Guven, a lawmaker of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), initiated “a partial and indefinite hunger strike” on November 7, 2018, calling for the lifting of what she calls the isolation by the Turkish government imposed on Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Since then, participation in the strike has spread among Kurdish inmates across Turkey, as well as among HDP lawmakers, in solidarity with MP Guven. So far seven inmates committed suicide amid increasing participation in hunger strikes.

Similarly, some family members of the jailed strikers started holding a sit-in protest on April 9 in front of the Gebze prison in Kocaeli province to raise awareness about the conditions of their children.

Families have been subjected to police pressure since the beginning of the protests. On Friday, some mothers were manhandled and harassed by the police.

Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and a human rights lawyer and activist, posted a tweet with footage showing a police officer pushing the women with a baton to move them away from the protest site.

Tanrikulu called on the authorities to open an investigation into the police officer. Later on Saturday, the Kocaeli Governor’s Office announced that an investigation has been opened into the officer.

However, on Sunday, the violent conduct of police officers was repeated as the Kurdish families, together with HDP lawmaker Nuran Imir, marched through the prison in an attempt to hold a vigil there.

The police officers increased their presence around the protestors, as they insisted on carrying out a march and detained some HDP members.

In order to protest the detentions, demonstrators turned the march into a sit-in. The police, however, tried to disperse the crowd dragging them harshly. The female MP fainted during the police intervention and was taken to the hospital. She was later reported as being well.

Police violence against Kurdish people, as well as HDP members, who are holding protests in solidarity with hunger striker Guven, have become frequent. Many think that brutal police interventions are due to the remarks of Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who vowed to stop HDP lawmakers attempting to demonstrate any kind of support to Guven, at any cost.

PKK has been waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey for self-rule since the early 1980s. Ankara accuses HDP of having links with PKK. Several party seniors, including the co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, have been in jail on various charges, including “managing a terrorist organization”.

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