Hunger strikes can work. That’s why we need to get behind the hunger-striking Kurdish activists.

Ilhan Sis
Eliza Egret

Campaigners are calling on the public to spend Good Friday on hunger strike, in solidarity with thousands of Kurdish hunger strikers around the world.

The hunger strikers’ demands are simple. They want Turkey to uphold its own law and end the solitary confinement of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Ilhan Sis is “skin and bones”

Ilhan Sis (also known as Imam) has been on hunger strike in Newport, Wales, for 124 days. His hunger strike is believed to be the longest in UK history.

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Under pressure, the Turkish government (accused of war crimes against Kurdish communities) has made concessions around the hunger strikes. Leyla Güven, the Kurdish MP who instigated the strikes, began hers while in prison. She was locked up by Turkey for being critical of its invasion of Afrin in northern Syria. Turkey released her after she began her hunger strike, and allowed Öcalan one 15-minute visit from his brother. However, Güven’s demand to break Öcalan’s isolation has yet to be met.

Since then, Turkey has ignored the demands of the thousands of hunger strikers. That’s why keeping up international pressure is so essential. Because the lives of the strikers depend on it.

Hunger strikes can work

On 15 April, Palestinian resistance icon Leila Khaled visited Güven at her home. Khaled is renowned for her militant resistance to the Israeli occupation. And her visit was important for linking up international struggles against colonialism.

Prior to her visit, Khaled had written to Güven. She told her:

In Turkish and Israeli prisons revolutionaries are going on hunger strike for freedom, justice, to stop the ruling system wanting to break the voice of the people who want democracy.

On behalf of myself and in the name of Palestinian women I say that I will use my voice against all attacks against the revolutionaries.

Palestinian prisoners are no strangers to hunger striking. And often, they have succeeded in getting their demands. On 15 April, for example, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners successfully ended their hunger strike after the Israeli prison administration agreed to lift repressive sanctions. And in 2013, Palestinian prisoner Samer al-Issawi guaranteed his release from prison after 266 days on hunger strike.

Join Ilhan Sis for a day of fasting

Activists have done all that they can to persuade the Committee for the Prevention of Torture to use its authority to end Öcalan’s solitary confinement. Now, they’re asking us to join Sis, Güven and the thousands of other hunger strikers for just one day of fasting.

The hunger strikers’ health is rapidly deteriorating. Our last shot at successful action could be now.

Feature image via Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign

Get involved

  • Activists are urging people to come to the Kurdish Community Centre in Newport on Friday 19 April to support Ilhan Sis and the other hunger strikers.
  • The Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign is asking for people to hunger-strike for one day on 19 April in their home or their workplace.
  • You can also write to your MP, and raise awareness on social media by sharing messages of solidarity.

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