UK to raise issue of Kurdish hunger strikers with Turkey

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Wladimir van Wilgenburg

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirmed on Wednesday that her government would encourage Turkey to uphold the human rights of hunger strike detainees, including access to medical treatment.

May made the comments in response to a question from Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts on whether the prime minister would take urgent action given the critical condition of Kurdish hunger strikers.

Hundreds of politically-jailed Kurds in Turkey are on a hunger strike to break a policy of isolation on the imprisoned founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan.

The hunger strikes have spread to places around the world, including in the UK. Among those on strike in Britain is 32-year old Imam Sis, who is currently on day 143 of his indefinite hunger strike and “is close to death,” according to Roberts.

“He is one of many Kurds on hunger strike around the world, including four others in the UK, protesting the treatment of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan imprisoned in Turkey, whose human rights are clearly being breached by the Turkish government.”

Turkey allowed Ocalan’s lawyers to visit him on May 2, the first time since 2011.

“Although we respect the resistance of our friends inside and outside prison, they should not take it to the point where it will endanger their health and lead to their death,” Ocalan said in a statement via his lawyers.

May confirmed that the treatment of the hunger strikers is an “important issue” and said her government expects Turkey “to undertake any legal processes against prisoners fairly, transparently, and with full respect for the rule of law.”

That includes “assuring access to appropriate medical treatment,” she added.

According to the UK prime minister, the British ambassador in Ankara had discussed the matter of hunger strikes with Turkish authorities.

“We will continue to encourage the Turkish state to uphold the human rights of hunger strike detainees including access to medical treatment,” May affirmed.

She added that she would ensure the foreign secretary “addresses that issue urgently,” after Roberts, 49 MPs, and Welsh Assembly Members wrotea letter calling for pressure on Turkey to uphold the human rights of the Kurds.

On April 24, Kurdish activists in the UK  protested Ocalan’s isolation at the Amnesty International office in London to demand more attention to the hunger strike of hundreds of Kurds.

However, 21 of them were evicted and arrested by police at the request of Amnesty but were later released.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

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