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Death Fasts and Oppression Continue in Turkey


The hunger strikes, which started in October 2000 in Turkey's prisons in protest against plans to introduce isolation prisons for political prisoners, are still continuing. The total number of martyrs in this struggle is now 95. This figure includes prisoners that died on hunger strike whilst in prison as well as the deaths of released prisoners who pursued the hunger strike outside prison. Alongside the released prisoners the friends and relatives of prisoners, notably from the TAYAD association for solidarity with prisoners, have also died in the protest while on hunger strike. In addition to these deaths, several hundred prisoners have been left handicapped to varying degrees as a result of forced feeding by the prison authorities.

Murders and massacres by the authorities are also part of this toll. These include the December 2000 massacre in which 28 prisoners lost their lives, and the November 5, 2001 Armutlu massacre in which three TAYAD supporters and a hunger striker were murdered by police in the Istanbul shantytown where they were continuing their protest action.

The protest is being led by the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front). Its prisoners have supplied by far the most martyrs in this struggle, although other groups have been involved. The initial hunger strike action involved the DHKP-C and two other revolutionary groups. After the prison massacre when the prisoners were transferred to the F-types, a number of other groups joined in the hunger strike. At the end of May 2002, most of these groups ended their hunger strikes, claiming that a moral victory had been gained. But this did not include the DHKP-C prisoners who issued a statement on June 10 saying that they were continuing on the grounds that the regime of isolation had not been removed. The TKEP-L (Communist Labour Party of Turkey-Leninist) is also continuing to participate in the hunger strikes.

The last month in Turkey has seen the martyrdom of four more prisoners on Death Fast. All four of them were women convicted under the country's anti-terror laws. The all died in hospital after prolonged fasting and force-feeding. They were Semra Basyigit aged 24 who died on July 30th after fasting for 368 days. Fatma Bilgin aged 30 who died August 10th after fasting for 431 days. Melek Birsen Hosver aged 23 who died on August 22nd after fasting for 330 days and Gulnihal Yilmaz aged 36 who died on August 25th after fasting for 449 days.

The last month has also seen increased oppression against the relatives and supporters of the Death Fast. On August 11th police from the anti-terror branch raided a suburb in Istanbul where three people were carrying out a solidarity fast. Dozens were arrested and taken into custody and were tortured for several days. They were eventually released after being taken before the no-jury State Security Court.

In a protest against the European Union's support for the F-type prisons a delegation of democrats including the families of prisoners and their lawyers
tried to petition the French consulate in Istanbul on August 16th. They were confronted by a large police presence and attacked. As a result of this 13 people were detained and many received serious head injuries. The police had also subjected the funeral of Fatma Bilgin to a physical attack several days before. 500 mourners were attacked and 11 people detained.

Four days after the attack outside the French consulate simultaneous raids were carried out by the police in Istanbul on the offices of the weekly left wing magazine 'Bread and Justice', the youth journal 'The Youth in Our Country' and the offices of TAYAD. Police from the anti-terror branch using oxygen cutting equipment and sledgehammers gained entry to the premises and arrested everyone there including people who visiting the offices at the time. Dozens were detained and the familiar story of people being tortured followed by cases being started against them in no-jury courts under the pretext of fighting terrorism continues to repeat itself.

Like in Ireland twenty years ago those who are sacrificing their lives in the prisons are young people in the prime of their life. But they are mature enough to know their responsibilities. Until the regime of isolation is lifted in the F-type prisons the Death Fast will continue. The prisoners relatives and supporters are also prepared to pay the same price as the prisoners.

The Irish people with their own experiences of hunger strikes and more recently with their rejection of the Nice Treaty are in a position to oppose not only the isolation cells in Turkey but also the parlance of Western Europe that says: "Turkey is reforming" "Turkey is becoming democratic". The massacres, force-feeding, detentions, torture and censorship show the reality of the IMF dependant, strategic NATO ally that is the Republic of Turkey. As far as the European Union is concerned this whole exercise has been a successful harmonisation process. European standards are now in place in the prisons and Turkey's whilst at the same time fighting 'terrorists'. These so-called European standards of the F-type prisons are the same standards that led to the deaths of ten Irish men twenty years ago.

This current government has presided over the worst prison massacres in the history of Turkey, they have carried out acts that the junta dared not do twenty years ago. The silence of Europe has been complicit in this bloodbath. It is the duty of all democrats to oppose isolation to show that solidarity is a greater weapon than massacres.






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We must dare to think 'unthinkable' thoughts. We must learn to explore all the options and possibilities that confront us in a complex and rapidly changing world. We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about 'unthinkable things' because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.
-James W. Fulbright

Index: Current Articles

22 September 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Pipedream Peace
Joe Graham


Can The Course of Labour Afford to Wait?
Billy Mitchell


Easily Annoyed
Peter Urban


Academics on Independence, Part 1

Paul Fitzsimmons


Sabra & Shatila

Anthony McIntyre


Palestine & Iraq
Brendan Hughes


Not In Our Name
Davy Carlin


Death Fasts and Oppression Continue in Turkey


19 September 2002


Belfast's "Poor White Trash" and the Dead Dogmas of the Past
Brian Kelly


Top Cat

Anthony McIntyre


Lower Than The Lowest of the Low
Liam O Ruairc


Civil Rights Vets Launch Status Campaign
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh


Peace Rather than Pipedreams
Sean Smyth


Bush War
Anthony McIntyre




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