Two-month hunger strike leaves HDP deputy Güven in critical condition

Jailed Kurdish opposition politician Leyla Güven has reached a critical condition and has been unable to see her lawyer for four days due to health problems caused by her long-running hunger strike, Turkish news site Diken reported.

Güven, who is both the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, an umbrella organisation for Kurdish groups, and a deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is imprisoned pending trial in Diyarbakır, south-east Turkey after being arrested in January 2018 for criticising Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militias in northwest Syria.

The Kurdish deputy is one of nine from the HDP who are currently held behind bars in Turkey, including the party’s former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş. The party is particularly vulnerable to prosecution due to perceived links tying it to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has fought Turkish security forces for Kurdish self-rule since the 1980s.

It was the Turkish state’s treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, that drove Güven to begin a hunger strike last November. Öcalan was captured by Turkey in 1999, and after the breakdown of peace negotiations between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and PKK in 2015, has been subject to severe restrictions on meetings.

Güven’s health has deteriorated after two months of the hunger fast to the point that she was unable to attend her mother’s funeral last week. The politician has complained of stomach cramps, weakness, low blood pressure and other problems.

Güven won her seat representing the south-east Turkish town of Hakkari in the June 2018 elections. The appointment as deputy conferred on her parliamentary immunity, which should have spared her from serving time in jail. However, prosecutors appealed against the release warrant issued after her victory, and succeeded in having it overturned.