İmam Sis, a Kurdish resident of Newport, Wales has reached day 100 of an indefinite hunger strike today. The hunger strike, started on 17th December 2018, is widely believed to be the longest in British history.
Along with İmam Sis, currently 300 Kurds are on hunger strike in Turkish prisons, Kurdistan, Europe and North America. They all have joined Leyla Güven, a democratically elected MP for the pro-Kurdish left wing HDP party in the Turkish Parliament, who began a hunger strike on 7th November 2018. Güven started her hunger strike while in jail for her criticism of Turkey’s military operation Afrin in northern Syria. She was freed by a court order at the end of January 2019, but continues her hunger strike, which entered its 139th today.
Three new indefinite hunger strikes have recently started in London.
İmam Sis said:
“We are not doing this hunger strike to die. I don’t want to do this hunger strike. All the hunger strikers take B complex vitamins. This is not a death fast. We love life, we love a free life but Kurdish people have no free life in the world. The Kurds as a people have no expression, no space. The Turkish State is trying to break our will. We will not accept this. Kurdish people always say we want a free life, we have no other choice. The freedom of Ocalan represents the freedom of the Kurdish people. We are ready to die for our freedom because what we have now, this is not life.”
According to the co-chair of Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign Mark Campbell, the hunger strike is now entering a very critical stage and people can and will die if the central demand of the protest is not met.
The hunger strikers demand that the Turkish government allow the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan access to his lawyers and to his family. Öcalan, imprisoned since 1999, has been prevented from seeing his lawyers since 2011 and his family since a short visit back in 2016. He is detained in solitary confinement.
The second demand is that the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) re-open its investigation into the prison on İmralı Island, where Öcalan is being held.
Last week, İmam Sis and other Kurdish hunger strikers were debated in the Senedd (Welsh Assembly), with it becoming the first parliament in the world to condemn Turkey and vote for solidarity with the hunger strike.