Kurds taking extreme measures to protest Erdoğan’s crackdown - analysis

Hundreds of Kurds around the world are taking extreme measures to protest President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s continued assault on Kurds, wrote UK-based left-wing quarterly magazine Red Pepper.

Highlighting the health of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Leyla Güven, who is on the 104th day of a hunger strike, the article stressed how she has become a symbol for Kurdish lawmakers in the country accused of ‘terror-related’ charges.

HDP lawmaker Leyla Güven
HDP lawmaker Leyla Güven


‘’There are currently 291 Kurdish political prisoners on strike, including a number of HDP MPs (though this figure grows daily, and will likely be out-of-date by the time this article is published). These strikes have also swept across Europe, with a group of 14 activists in Strasbourg, including HDP MP Dilek Öcalan, having now been on hunger strike for 66 days. Imam Sis, a Kurd living in Newport, Wales, recently reached the sixtieth day of his strike, and there are numerous strikes on-going in Germany,’’ it said.

The unified demand of the strikers is to end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years.

Öcalan has been imprisoned since 1999 on İmralı Island and has been kept in seclusion since 2011.

Pointing out that this kind of isolation is unmatched, Red Pepper highlighted the ‘Mandela Rules’ - the UN guidelines on confinement - which state that no prisoner should be without human contact for more than 22 hours a day, over a period of 15 days.

‘’Turkey violates these rules every fortnight, to little or no international censure,’’ the article stressed, noting that ending Öcalan’s isolation is not of merely symbolic importance; it is a necessary precondition for a lasting peace.  

The political and legal precarity of Kurds in Turkey has intensified since the July 2016 coup attempt, the article said, with anyone associated with the HDP becoming vulnerable to arrest.

The criminalisation of Kurdishness and the broader anti-democratic turn taken by Turkey’s strongman who has overseen the imprisonment of some 50,000 people pending trial, it said.

‘’Erdogan’s unwillingness to tolerate Kurdishness at home is matched by a determination to destroy it abroad: he has amassed the Turkish army on its Syrian border, and is waiting for a full-scale invasion of Rojava to be green lit by the U.S’’ Red Pepper noted, referring to plans by Ankara for a third military operation into neighbouring Syria.