Inmates in 120 Turkish prisons near one month of hunger strikes against rights violations, Öcalan's isolation

Inmates from around 120 prisons across Turkey are nearing a month of hunger strikes to protest widespread human rights violations in penitentiaries, perhaps the most severe case of which is Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan's extended total isolation.

Vecdi Erbay / DUVAR

Prisoners from around 120 penitentiaries across Turkey are nearing a month of rotating hunger strikes. Those striking are calling for the total elimination of the practice of solitary confinement, perhaps the most apparent manifestation of mass human rights violations and injustice in the country's correctional system.

Prisoners who identified as members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Iranian Kurdish Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) said on Nov. 27 that they would be going on hunger strikes in five-day rotations, in order to call for an end to PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's total isolation, as well as the widespread rights violations against inmates. 

The PKK and PJAK members' strike expanded as imprisoned former deputy of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Çağlar Demirel announced that she had joined the strike on Nov. 28. 

"Take note that Çağlar Demirel did not start the strike, she is merely participating in it," said attorney Yusuf Çakas. "The participation of 'esteemed prisoners' really shows the gravity of the situation."

The strike is solely focused on stopping Öcalan's total isolation on İmralı Island, but prisoners view Öcalan's mistreatment as a reflection of their own situations, which are often riddled with a variety of human rights violations, the attorney added.

"The total isolation on İmralı island as well as other human rights violations in prisons impacts society as a whole," Çakas noted.

The prisoners reportedly delivered a statement to the prison administration with their demands before starting the strike, so the Justice Ministry would be fully aware of the ongoing hunger strike. The Justice Ministry has yet to comment on the issue.

"We don't have exact figures, but there are 120 prisons currently on strike, with an average of one to five prisoners participating in each facility."

The only way the strike will end is when "all of society sees Mr. Öcalan allowed to have legal security, family, and attorney visits," Çakas added.