Tensions have risen after the Kurdish issue-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) “paused life” for one day and the police intervened in protests, as Kurdish prison inmates’ hunger strikes enter their 50th day.
The BDP’s action to pause life for one day was strongly supported in the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakýr, Van, Þýrnak, Batman and Hakkari, where the majority of shops and schools ceased operation.
BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaþ gave a speech to a large crowd in front of Diyarbakýr Prison, asking for the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to be released.
“To end the hunger strikes we are ready to do our share, but our attitude is in vain. We must meet with Imrali [referring to Abdullah Öcalan], not his family or lawyers. We do not demand Mehmet Öcalan [the PKK leader’s brother] visit him in jail, we demand Abdullah Öcalan come here [to Diyarbakýr],” Demirtaþ said.
In the eastern province of Van, thousands of people marched toward the city’s F-type prison to support the Kurdish inmates who have been conducting a hunger strike for 49 days.
Out of a total of 200 Kurdish inmates, some 182 ended their hunger strike in the eastern province of Van’s F-type prison according to reports; however the Association for Inmates’ Families’ Solidarity (TAYAD) issued a press release saying 18 people continue to strike and some 120 were taking turns striking every two days.
In Istanbul, police used pepper gas to interfere with crowds gathered in support of the strikers, some of whom were BDP supporters. Over 100 policemen used pepper gas in an attempt to disperse the group after they began a sit-in protest.
The group aimed to reach a tent in Okmeydaný where some inmates’ mothers joined the hunger strike outside the prison, calling themselves “Peace Mothers.”
Police demolished the tent and used gas on the women who refused to leave.
The group of nearly 30 people fled down backstreets to escape the gas, but police pursued them and continued to spray pepper gas.
Two people were reportedly injured but BDP Istanbul deputy Sebahattin Tuncel said at least 10 suffered injuries. Police sources also said that 18 people had been detained. The prisoners on hunger strike are demanding the guarantee of the health, security and freedom of the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, as well as the inclusion of Kurdish as an official language in education and the right to legally defend themselves in Kurdish. President Abdullah Gül recently renewed his calls for the termination of the hunger strike.
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