I am starving myself until Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan is taken out of solitary confinement

I am starving myself until Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan is taken out of solitary confinement

I am starving myself until Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan is taken out of solitary confinement

As the communities in Syria and Iraq were celebrating the territorial defeat of the so-called Islamic State caliphate last week, I too was rejoicing watching the historic images of dancing women and men, after years of violence, enslavement and oppression. When the Syrian Democratic Forces declared their victory over Isis, I was on the 98th day of my hunger strike.

As a Kurd, my commitment to a world of justice, equality and democracy forced me to leave Turkey and become a political refugee in the United Kingdom 15 years ago. I have been living in Newport, Wales, since 2014, where I am actively involved in struggles for coexistence and equality.

In December 2018, I went on hunger strike at the Kurdish community centre in Newport, after the elected Kurdish MP, former mayor, and women’s activist Leyla Güven began her hunger strike from her prison cell in Turkey in early November last year. She began this protest to break the systematic isolation imposed on imprisoned Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan on Imrali Prison Island.


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Viewed by millions of people as their leader, Abdullah Öcalan is the chief negotiator on behalf of the Kurdish people in the conflict with the Turkish state. This is a reality that is also accepted by the Turkish state, which has held dialogue processes with Öcalan in the past. On many occasions over decades, Öcalan initiated unilateral ceasefires and peace initiatives. His prison writings, which promote participatory democracy, gender equality and ecology, have laid out comprehensive roadmaps to peace in the region.

Since 2011, Öcalan has been banned from receiving visits from his lawyers, a violation of a fundamental human right. Since late spring of 2015, with the collapse of the peace process that he had initiated in 2013, he has been held under total isolation from the outside world. His family is no longer able to visit him. This total isolation amounts to torture under international human rights standards.

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1/50 13 April 2019

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4/50 10 April 2019

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6/50 8 April 2019

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11/50 3 April 2019

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12/50 2 April 2019

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13/50 1 April 2019

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14/50 31 March 2019

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15/50 30 March 2019

Workers from the Honda plant in Swindon during a protest march through the town as the car giant will be urged to reverse its decision to close its UK plant

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16/50 29 March 2019

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17/50 28 March 2019

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19/50 26 March 2019

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20/50 25 March 2019

Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox arrives in Downing street, London for a cabinet meeting. British Prime Minister Theresa May will today chair a potentially volatile meeting of her cabinet amid reports of an attempted coup by colleagues over her handling of Brexit.

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21/50 24 March 2019

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22/50 23 March 2019

Protesters take part in the Put It To The People March on Whitehall in London. Thousands of protesters gathered for the march from Park Lane to Parliament Square calling for a public vote on the Governments final Brexit deal

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23/50 22 March 2019

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news briefing after meeting with EU leaders in Brussels

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24/50 21 March 2019

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25/50 20 March 2019

Gallery technicians install Edvard Munch’s The Scream at the British Museum in London, ahead of the opening of Edvard Munch: love and angst exhibition, which runs from 11 April to 21 July

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26/50 19 March 2019

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27/50 18 March 2019

Messenger, the largest bronze cast sculpture in the UK, arrives in Plymouth Sound by barge as it makes its way to be installed outside Theater Royal Plymouth, Devon

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28/50 17 March 2019

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29/50 16 March 2019

Police at the scene in Fulham, west London where a 29-year-old man was stabbed to death this morning. The Metropolitan Police said it was called “to reports of a fight in progress” by ambulance crews and arrived on the scene at about 12.27am. The victim was found with stab wounds and died at the scene at 12.56am despite attempts by paramedics and members of the public to save his life

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30/50 15 March 2019

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31/50 14 March 2019

Families of those killed during Bloody Sunday march through Bogside in Derry, Northern Ireland. The Public Prosecution Service announced only one former British soldier is to be put on trial in connection with his role in the shootings that left 13 people dead in Derry on 30 January 1972. Families of those killed gathered outside The Museum of Free Derry, yards from where the killings took place, before marching to the city centre hotel to hear the announcement

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Getty

32/50 13 March 2019

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing Street as he heads to the House of Commons, to deliver his Spring Statement. He announced he was slashing the UK growth forecast and warned no-deal Brexit will destroy pledge to end austerity

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33/50 12 March 2019

British Synchronised swimmers Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe, attempting to recreate their World Championship routine in a pool filled with plastic for The Big Bang Fair challenge, opening this week at the NEC Birmingham. The campaign for the Big Bang competition, which is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) for young people in the UK has been created to help highlight how the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped in the world’s oceans every year affects marine life

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34/50 11 March 2019

Snow surrounds the Tan Hill pub in North Yorkshire

PA

35/50 10 March 2019

A man feeds food to dogs during the ‘Brexit Dogs Dinner’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London

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36/50 9 March 2019

Protesters from the climate change pressure group Extinction Rebellion demonstrate by pouring fake blood onto the street outside Downing Street in London

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37/50 8 March 2019

A woman runs with her Komondor dog as it is judged in a show ring on the second day of the Crufts dog show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham

AFP/Getty

38/50 7 March 2019

Scaffolding which has blown down in strong winds in Hampstead, north London

Robert Berg/Twitter/PA Wire

39/50 6 March 2019

Police and bomb disposal services outside the University of Glasgow after the building was evacuated when a suspect package was found in the mailroom

PA

40/50 5 March 2019

Police officers secure the scene where a suspicious package was found near Waterloo railway station. Other packages were also found at Heathrow Airport and London City Airport, with the police saying they were bombs. Counterterror officers are investigating the three devices as linked following a series of evacuations. One of the packages opened by office staff at Heathrow Airport burst into flames. Scotland Yard did not rule out the existence of other bombs. “The packages – all A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow Jiffy bags – have been assessed by specialist officers to be small improvised explosive devices,” a spokesperson said. “These devices, at this early stage of the investigation, appear capable of igniting an initially small fire when opened. “The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command is treating the incidents as a linked series and is keeping an open mind regarding motives.”

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41/50 4 March 2019

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42/50 3 March 2019

Christopher Hepworth with partner Tanisha Prince (right) on their way to victory in the annual UK Wife Carrying Race at The Nower in Dorking, Surrey

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43/50 2 March 2019

Police officers search near the scene on St Neot’s Road in Harold Hill, east London following the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old girl on Friday night. Police were called to reports of a knife attack in the Romford area by the ambulance service at 9.25pm. The girl was pronounced dead at the scene just over an hour later. Her next of kin have been informed and detectives from the Metropolitan Police have launched a murder investigation

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44/50 1 March 2019

Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson celebrate after winning gold and silver medals in the women’s pentathlon at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow

Getty

45/50 28 February 2019

A painting, believed to be the second version of “Judith Beheading Holofernes” by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, is picutred during a photocall in London following its restoration. – The 400-year-old canvas — depicting the beheading of an Assyrian general, Holofernes, by Judith from the biblical Book of Judith — was found in 2014 when the owners of a house near the southwestern city of Toulouse in France, were investigating a leak in the ceiling. It is a burst of violence painted in haunting tones by a Renaissance master worth at least $100 million — or yet another fake distressing the art world.

AFP/Getty

46/50 27 February 2019

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47/50 26 February 2019

Alastair Cook after he received his knighthood at Buckingham Palace

PA

48/50 25 February 2019

Nobby the polar bear cools down at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park during unseasonably warm weather. The park was covered in a blanket of snow at the end of February 2018 as the UK was hit by sub-zero temperatures. Forecasters have said that after this weekend’s warm weather, temperatures later this week should return to normal

PA

49/50 24 February 2019

Olivia Colman won the best actress in a leading role award for ‘The Favourite’ at the 91st Academy Awards in Hollywood

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50/50 23 February 2019

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson seen on the big screen as he addresses a protest over the BBC’s Panorama programme outside the BBC in MediaCityUK, Salford

PA


1/50 13 April 2019

Lincoln City’s Bruno Andrade (left) and Shay McCartan celebrate being promoted after their Sky Bet League Two match at Sincil Bank, Lincoln

PA

2/50 12 April 2019

Supporters march during the YouthStrike4Climate demonstration in central London

AFP/Getty

3/50 11 April 2019

The Milky Way and millions of stars over Dinstanburgh Castle in the early hours of the morning. Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th-century fortification on the coast of Northumberland in northern England, between the villages of Craster and Embleton. The castle was built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster between 1313 and 1322

PA

4/50 10 April 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May react during an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels

Reuters


5/50 9 April 2019

England’s Ellen White celebrates after her side go 1-0 up against Spain during their friendly match at the Energy Check County Ground, Swindon. The Lionesses went on to win 2-1

PA

6/50 8 April 2019

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and fellow Labour MPs welcome the newly elected MP for Newport West, Ruth Jones (right), to the Houses of Parliament

PA

7/50 7 April 2019

James Cracknell celebrates after winning the Men’s Boat Race with Cambridge. Former Olympic and World Champion Cracknell, 46, became the oldest entrant in Boat Race history, qualifying after taking up a Master of Philosophy degree in human evolution

Getty

8/50 6 April 2019

Davy Russell, riding Tiger Roll, celebrates winning the Random Health Grand National at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool. He became the first horse since Red Rum to win back-to-back renewals

EPA


9/50 5 April 2019

Activists in hazmat suits and masks stop traffic in west London in a protest accusing authorities of lying after cancer-causing chemicals were found in soil close to Grenfell Tower

PA

10/50 4 April 2019

England football manager Gareth Southgate with the OBE that he received at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London

PA

11/50 3 April 2019

Newborn lambs in a snow covered field near Allendale, Northumberland, after temperatures dipped below freezing overnight. Hill snow, sleet, showers and gales are expected for parts of the UK as the chilly snap keeps hold.

PA

12/50 2 April 2019

Armathwaite Hall hotel in Keswick, Cumbria holds Lemoga classes with the lemurs from Lake District Wild Life Park, who were mingling with the class to create a personal yoga experience which aims to heighten the sense of wellbeing for both lemur and human. With their friendly, outgoing personalities and love for human contact, lemurs make the perfect yoga buddies, helping people to laugh, unwind and stretch away their troubles

PA


13/50 1 April 2019

Fire fighters attend to two police cars that were destroyed after being set on fire outside Goldthorpe police station in South Yorkshire in a suspected arson attack

PA

14/50 31 March 2019

Forensics teams work at the scene of a stabbing in Edmonton in London. Four people have been stabbed in a spate of knife attacks in the north of the capital over the weekend

Getty

15/50 30 March 2019

Workers from the Honda plant in Swindon during a protest march through the town as the car giant will be urged to reverse its decision to close its UK plant

Unite South West/PA

16/50 29 March 2019

Pro-Brexit protesters outside Westminster as MPs voted on a Government motion on the EU withdrawal

PA


17/50 28 March 2019

England football captain Harry Kane is made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by the Duke of Cambridge during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace

PA

18/50 27 March 2019

Gallery staff give a final dusting to the ‘Olympe’ sculpture by Aspencrow, modelled on Cara Delevingne and an interpretation of Medusa, as it is unveiled at the JD Malay Gallery in Mayfair, London

PA

19/50 26 March 2019

PD Marci with handler PC Neil Billany, PD Kai with handler PC Jean Pearce, PD Bruno with handler Rob Smith, PD Delta with handler PC Mark Snoxhall, PDSA vet Rosamund Ford, and PD Dave with handler PC Andy Salter at Borough market in London where the dogs were honoured with the PDSA Order of Merit for helping emergency services during the 2017 London terror attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge and Borough Market

PA

20/50 25 March 2019

Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox arrives in Downing street, London for a cabinet meeting. British Prime Minister Theresa May will today chair a potentially volatile meeting of her cabinet amid reports of an attempted coup by colleagues over her handling of Brexit.

AFP/Getty


21/50 24 March 2019

Workers peeling off stickers left on the Cabinet Office door on Whitehall, London, left by anti-Brexit campaigners after they took part in the People’s Vote March

PA

22/50 23 March 2019

Protesters take part in the Put It To The People March on Whitehall in London. Thousands of protesters gathered for the march from Park Lane to Parliament Square calling for a public vote on the Governments final Brexit deal

Getty

23/50 22 March 2019

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news briefing after meeting with EU leaders in Brussels

Reuters

24/50 21 March 2019

The mosque and community centre on Albert Road in Birmingham where a police forensic team are at work after it had its windows smashed with a sledgehammer. An investigation involving counter-terrorism officers has been launched after four mosques in the Birmingham area were attacked overnight

PA


25/50 20 March 2019

Gallery technicians install Edvard Munch’s The Scream at the British Museum in London, ahead of the opening of Edvard Munch: love and angst exhibition, which runs from 11 April to 21 July

PA

26/50 19 March 2019

The ‘tall ship’ William II passes a wind turbine as it sails along the north east coast near Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear after it set off from Blyth in Northumberland on a voyage round the coastline of Great Britain calling at 10 ports en route and changing crews at each stage. The Blyth Tall Ship project is a charity working alongside Blyth community volunteers to recapture the spirit of adventure that was employed in the town to discover the Antarctic 200 years ago and the turbine is part of a pilot field operated by EDF off Blyth which uses concrete float-and-submerge foundations

PA

27/50 18 March 2019

Messenger, the largest bronze cast sculpture in the UK, arrives in Plymouth Sound by barge as it makes its way to be installed outside Theater Royal Plymouth, Devon

PA

28/50 17 March 2019

Flooding in Silsdend, Yorkshire. Heavy rain has caused widespread flooding across the country. Flood warnings remain in place across the UK

PA


29/50 16 March 2019

Police at the scene in Fulham, west London where a 29-year-old man was stabbed to death this morning. The Metropolitan Police said it was called “to reports of a fight in progress” by ambulance crews and arrived on the scene at about 12.27am. The victim was found with stab wounds and died at the scene at 12.56am despite attempts by paramedics and members of the public to save his life

PA

30/50 15 March 2019

Schoolchildren gather around Queen Victoria Memorial at Buckingham Palace as they take part in a student climate protest in London. Thousands of pupils from schools, colleges and universities across the UK will walk out in the second major strike against climate change this year. Young people nationwide are calling on the Government to declare a climate emergency and take action. Similar strikes are taking place around the world today including in Japan and Australia, inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg who criticised world leaders at a United Nations climate conference

Getty

31/50 14 March 2019

Families of those killed during Bloody Sunday march through Bogside in Derry, Northern Ireland. The Public Prosecution Service announced only one former British soldier is to be put on trial in connection with his role in the shootings that left 13 people dead in Derry on 30 January 1972. Families of those killed gathered outside The Museum of Free Derry, yards from where the killings took place, before marching to the city centre hotel to hear the announcement

Charles McQuillan

Getty

32/50 13 March 2019

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing Street as he heads to the House of Commons, to deliver his Spring Statement. He announced he was slashing the UK growth forecast and warned no-deal Brexit will destroy pledge to end austerity

PA


33/50 12 March 2019

British Synchronised swimmers Kate Shortman and Isabelle Thorpe, attempting to recreate their World Championship routine in a pool filled with plastic for The Big Bang Fair challenge, opening this week at the NEC Birmingham. The campaign for the Big Bang competition, which is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) for young people in the UK has been created to help highlight how the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped in the world’s oceans every year affects marine life

PA

34/50 11 March 2019

Snow surrounds the Tan Hill pub in North Yorkshire

PA

35/50 10 March 2019

A man feeds food to dogs during the ‘Brexit Dogs Dinner’ protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London

Reuters

36/50 9 March 2019

Protesters from the climate change pressure group Extinction Rebellion demonstrate by pouring fake blood onto the street outside Downing Street in London

Reuters


37/50 8 March 2019

A woman runs with her Komondor dog as it is judged in a show ring on the second day of the Crufts dog show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham

AFP/Getty

38/50 7 March 2019

Scaffolding which has blown down in strong winds in Hampstead, north London

Robert Berg/Twitter/PA Wire

39/50 6 March 2019

Police and bomb disposal services outside the University of Glasgow after the building was evacuated when a suspect package was found in the mailroom

PA

40/50 5 March 2019

Police officers secure the scene where a suspicious package was found near Waterloo railway station. Other packages were also found at Heathrow Airport and London City Airport, with the police saying they were bombs. Counterterror officers are investigating the three devices as linked following a series of evacuations. One of the packages opened by office staff at Heathrow Airport burst into flames. Scotland Yard did not rule out the existence of other bombs. “The packages – all A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow Jiffy bags – have been assessed by specialist officers to be small improvised explosive devices,” a spokesperson said. “These devices, at this early stage of the investigation, appear capable of igniting an initially small fire when opened. “The Met Police Counter Terrorism Command is treating the incidents as a linked series and is keeping an open mind regarding motives.”

Reuters


41/50 4 March 2019

Large waves crash over the sea walls at Cleveleys near Blackpool, as the remains of Storm Freya, which has battered Britain with gales, heavy rain and snow causes widespread travel disruption

PA

42/50 3 March 2019

Christopher Hepworth with partner Tanisha Prince (right) on their way to victory in the annual UK Wife Carrying Race at The Nower in Dorking, Surrey

PA

43/50 2 March 2019

Police officers search near the scene on St Neot’s Road in Harold Hill, east London following the fatal stabbing of a 17-year-old girl on Friday night. Police were called to reports of a knife attack in the Romford area by the ambulance service at 9.25pm. The girl was pronounced dead at the scene just over an hour later. Her next of kin have been informed and detectives from the Metropolitan Police have launched a murder investigation

PA

44/50 1 March 2019

Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Niamh Emerson celebrate after winning gold and silver medals in the women’s pentathlon at the 2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow

Getty


45/50 28 February 2019

A painting, believed to be the second version of “Judith Beheading Holofernes” by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, is picutred during a photocall in London following its restoration. – The 400-year-old canvas — depicting the beheading of an Assyrian general, Holofernes, by Judith from the biblical Book of Judith — was found in 2014 when the owners of a house near the southwestern city of Toulouse in France, were investigating a leak in the ceiling. It is a burst of violence painted in haunting tones by a Renaissance master worth at least $100 million — or yet another fake distressing the art world.

AFP/Getty

46/50 27 February 2019

Dozens of firefighters worked through the night to battle a major moorland blaze in West Yorkshire. More than 1.5sq km of Saddleworth Moor was ablaze in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the UK’s hottest winter day on record

Reuters

47/50 26 February 2019

Alastair Cook after he received his knighthood at Buckingham Palace

PA

48/50 25 February 2019

Nobby the polar bear cools down at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park during unseasonably warm weather. The park was covered in a blanket of snow at the end of February 2018 as the UK was hit by sub-zero temperatures. Forecasters have said that after this weekend’s warm weather, temperatures later this week should return to normal

PA


49/50 24 February 2019

Olivia Colman won the best actress in a leading role award for ‘The Favourite’ at the 91st Academy Awards in Hollywood

PA

50/50 23 February 2019

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson seen on the big screen as he addresses a protest over the BBC’s Panorama programme outside the BBC in MediaCityUK, Salford

PA

The Turkish state under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has launched brutal military campaigns in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes, knows that by isolating Abdullah Öcalan, it silences the representative of the Kurdish people in the efforts to solve the conflict. With this, the state suffocates the option of peace and reconciliation.

Hunger striking is a civil protest form that people resort to after all other means to make political demands have been exhausted. While no harm is caused to others, the protesters put their lives at risk to express commitment to their principles.

On the same day as myself, a group of Kurdish activists and politicians launched a hunger strike in front of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) is the primary entity in charge of the case of Öcalan’s treatment. Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and thus bound by its regulations. Unfortunately, the CPT is acting politically by refraining from acting according to its own rules at this time of urgency.

At the moment, thousands of Kurds, mostly political prisoners, are on hunger strike for the same purpose. Over the last few weeks, five people have taken their own lives in protest at the global silence. These actions foreshadow what we may expect to see, if the institutions in charge continue to fail to act upon their own self-declared duties.

Silence approves the ongoing authoritarian crackdown of the Turkish government against anyone who opposes it. The hunger strike thus also raises the voice of millions of people, whose plight can no longer be heard in an atmosphere of press censorship and anti-democratic government policies that increasingly limit spheres of civic life.

Instead of using its position to play a positive role for the resolution of the conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdish movement, the UK government under Theresa May has struck major arms deals with the Turkish government, despite the latter‘s well documented, widespread practice of systematic human rights abuses and war crimes against civilian populations.

I stress that our demand is perfectly compatible with international law and universal human rights standards, as well as with Turkey’s own laws. We simply ask the Turkish state to respect the fundamental human rights of Öcalan, a demand that will moreover enable the country to return to the peace process, which tragically transformed into the most violent episode of a four decades-old war.

Since the beginning of my action, I have lost approximately 20kg and am suffering from various serious health issues. From the beginning, I knew that this action could result in my death, but I am determined to continue my protest until this single, legal and humane demand of ours has been met.

Encouraged by the Welsh parliament’s recent passing of a motion stating that Öcalan is not being held in line with human rights law, the UK government, parliament, political parties and civil society should urgently pressure Turkey and the Council of Europe to prevent more deaths, so that we can return to the peace process.

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