Turkish police officers have forced families who have been trying to draw attention to hunger strikes by their detained children in the Gebze prison in Kocaeli to withdraw from staging a sit-in protest, Demiroren news agency (DHA) reported.
The protest was entering its 20th day on Sunday when police would not allow women who left the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) building in Gebze district to go in front of the Gebze Prison in order to support their children.
The women then tried to hold a sit-in protest on the street where police officers blocked their way to the prison. However, they returned to the party building after Gebze District Police Department Head Murat Seker told them they would be detained if they did not end the protest immediately.
Police took precautions after accompanying the women back into the party building.
On November 7, 2018, HDP lawmaker Leyla Guven initiated what she termed a partial and indefinite hunger strike with the demand that the isolation by the Turkish government imposed on Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), be lifted.
More and more Kurdish inmates and HDP lawmakers across Turkey have been participating in the strike in solidarity with MP Guven. Since then seven inmates have committed suicide for the same cause.
Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop has rejected a recent call by the pro-Kurdish HDP to visit Guven during a TV program on CNN Turk.
“It’s not right to have demands about some convicted terrorist leader’s conditions in Imrali [prison],” Sentop said on Sunday.
“In this respect, I think that this irrational protest should come to an end as soon as possible. I also don’t think that paying a visit [to Guven] is the right thing to do,” he added.
According to a news report by the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency (MA), police violence against Kurdish people who are holding protests in solidarity with hunger strikers have become frequent with some of the mothers in Gebze being manhandled and harassed.
MA reported that the mothers told police officers that they will not give up trying to hold protests in support of their children who are on a hunger strike even if they are threatened to death.
Critics claim that remarks of Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu who vowed to stop HDP lawmakers attempting to show any kind of support to Guven and other hunger strikers are what paved the way for brutal police interventions.
Since the 1980s, PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey for self-rule. The Turkish government accuses pro-Kurdish HDP of being linked to the PKK.
Several party seniors, including the co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, have been in prison on various charges that include managing a terrorist organization, even though HDP denies the allegations.