Two journalists who were detained on Friday while covering hunger strike solidarity protests in Istanbul were released on Monday, along with several other protestors, online news portal Gazete Karinca reported.
Zeynep Kuray and Irfan Tunccelik, journalists who both work for Pro-Kurdish media outlets, were covering two different protests in Istanbul – one in front of the Bakirkoy Women’s Closed Prison and the other at Istanbul’s famous Spice Bazaar – on Friday when they were taken into custody.
Among those detained on Friday were 38 Kurdish mothers who were trying to expose conditions of their imprisoned children who are participating in the hunger strikes, as well as Arzu Kayaoglu, who is a lawyer and member of the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD).
Several detainees, including the two journalists, were released pending trial but must report to a police station regularly and are banned from leaving Turkey.
The remaining detainees are still to give statements at Caglayan Courthouse, as the probe is ongoing. The protestors will be formally charged after an indictment is prepared by the prosecutor.
Hunger strikes continue as Erdogan’s pressure on Kurdish dissidents increase
The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has long called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift the isolation imposed on Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
In 1984, PKK launched a guerrilla war against Turkey to establish an autonomous Kurdish homeland in the predominantly Kurdish populated southeastern region of the country. Its leader, Ocalan, is serving a life term and has been kept in solitary confinement on the Imralı Prison island in north-western Turkey since 1999.
Many HDP affiliated people have been staging hunger strikes, calling for an end
to Ocalan’s isolation. HDP lawmaker, Leyla Guven, initiated “a partial and indefinite hunger strike” on November 7, 2018, for that purpose.
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 have committed suicide amid increasing participation in hunger strikes.
Similarly, several family members of the jailed strikers started holding sit-in and vigil demonstrations across the country in a bid to raise awareness of the conditions of their children. Families have been subjected to violence since the beginning of the protests, with the police manhandling and harassing them.
On May 2, Erdogan allowed Ocalan to meet his attorneys, which HDP has been requesting for almost eight years.
Besides the pressure on the Kurdish opposition, the Erdogan regime has been cracking down on independent media in Turkey, notably following the failed putsch in July 2016.
In 2018, Turkey was placed 157th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
According to the report, Turkey is the “world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists”.
According to the figures released by TurkeyPurge, the number of journalists arrested in Turkey has reached 319 since the failed coup in 2016. Turkey has closed 189 media and publishing outlets in total so far.