Press release – Hunger strikes in the Sakran and other prisons in Turkey

Press release – Hunger strikes in the Sakran and other prisons in Turkey

On the 11th of April 2017, we will be standing before the walls of the Sakran prison, behind which lives are slowly being snuffed out. We will be there because we do not know how else we can penetrate the walls of insentivity and silence surrounding the hunger strike which is now intering its 56th day.


The human rights violations perpetrated by the government under the State of Emergency rule are redoubled within the prison walls. The inmates and their relatives are constantly being subjected to demeaning treatment, including arbitrarily imposed naked searches, medical examinations being carried out while the patient is handcuffed, and strict isolation.  Such practices are crimes under both national and international law.


The hunger strikes which started in the Sakran prison in İzmir on the Aegan coast of Turkey, and have spread to other prisons, attest to the fact that the prison conditions have deteriorated beyond endurance.


These people, who have only their bodies to sacrifice in order to uphold their dignity, are making demands which are totally wihin their legal rights and not at all difficult to meet.


With the hunger strike having gone beyond the 55th day, the prisoners may be expected to suffer irreversible impairment of their health.  Nevertheless, the penal administrators and first and foremost the Ministry of Justice, seem oblivious to their responsibilities. The Sakran Prison Warden, Mustafa Sonmez, threatens the inmates with out-doing the infamous Diyarbakir Prison Warden Esat Oktay, who left a deep scar in the public memory in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup in Turkey. The audacity with which such threats are made point to a chilling indifference on the part of the Ministry of Justice to international agreements which also bind Turkey.


The present-day guidelines regarding hunger strikes rest upon the World Medical Association declarations which hold that not only doctors but also prison authorities bear responsibilities. Yet beyond the prison walls such responsibilities and the rights of the hunger strikers go unheeded. Their daily water, salt, sugar, carbonate and vitamin needs are not met.  They suffer assaults from the guards even in front of their families during visits.


Since none of their rights or demands appear on the political agenda, the inmates’ voices go unheard and they fade away day by day right before our eyes. Together with our hopes for fraternity, equality and justice, the chance for peace in the country is also being scuttled.


The late writer Yasar Kemal, who intervened in the hunger strikes in 2012 on behalf of  democratic demands and the initiation of the peace process, said “It does not become a human being to be merely a spectator to death.” We wish to make the silent scream behind the prison walls to be heard.


We call upon the Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag, with whom the Members of Parliament Pervin Buldan and Sırrı Süreyya Önder met last week, to make way for dialogue and give the right to life a chance. This lies perfectly within his competence, and therefore he cannot escape responsibility in case of tragic consequences.


We end with a further quotation from Yasar Kemal: “If deaths cannot be avoided although a solution is possible, the onus will be on the government, the opposition, the media and on all of us.  Peace is the dream and the right of everyone in this country. We all must clear the way and oppose the erection of further impediments to peace.”


The Peace Bloc, Turkey

11 April 2017, Sakran – İzmir