Before it’s too late…

Each time I visit the hunger strikers in Strasbourg they are visibly weaker. Now, after 113 days without food, they spend almost the whole time in bed, though sleep is difficult and lack of real rest is itself a serious problem. They don’t like to talk about their health, but they are all suffering multiple pains and discomfort, as well as the fear that their heart could give up at any time, and they are extra-sensitive to sound and light. My friend, Kardo, continues to have problems with his eyes, so that he has to be separated off from the rest of the makeshift dormitory by a thick curtain to keep out the light, and the pain his eyes give him can be intense. For some of the hunger strikers, the only outwardly visible sign is their significant loss of weight, but Kerem Solhan looks fragile, his head wrapped in a shawl, and Yuksel Koç seems to have aged many years since I first met him just over 10 weeks ago, and has acquired new round glasses that, as Kardo observed, make him look like Gandhi. The stress is also telling on all those who provide them with daily support.

On doctor’s orders, my talks with Kardo were limited to 10-15 minutes. On Saturday I saw him twice, but he was suffering from a night of pain from his eyes. Despite the protection of dark glasses and his curtained bed, he kept closing his eyes to rest them, which made it harder for him to concentrate. But we managed to talk, among other things, about the difficulties for the Kurds in Turkey to rise up against the crushing brutality of the regime, and about support, and lack of support, from outwith the Kurdish community. I updated him on what was happening in the UK and he dictated a short message to be read out on Sunday’s demonstration in Cardiff.

On Sunday, I only had one brief visit, but Kardo managed to speak without his dark glasses, from the gloom of his curtained bed, and that old smile returned as he talked about the importance of living a revolutionary life even if you don’t succeed in your aims, and recalled his excitement at seeing the changes brought to the Arab women by the SDF’s liberation of Manbij. He observed that he used to think that Kurds were the most oppressed people until he saw those Arab women, and he described his own joy as they discovered their new freedom, and one overcame her initial fear sufficiently not only to speak up but to argue back at him.

Visitors came to see the hunger strikers from different places, including their families. Yuksal introduced me to his wife, and there was a big delegation of Kurds and their friends from Italy. While supporters boost the morale, it is getting harder for the hunger strikers to spend much time with them. And, ass well as the predictable pain of street noises to people in their extra-sensitive condition, I was told that some local Turks drive by in cars blaring out Turkish nationalist songs.

Meanwhile, in the big official buildings at the other side of the city, ministers and officials make speeches and shuffle papers. Sometimes, in response to intense behind the scenes lobbying, mention is made of the Kurdish question – even supportive statements produced – but none of this results in action. And so, we wait to see how Erdoğan responds to an election wounding in which Kurdish votes played a conspicuous part.

The chances of Turkey conceding to the hunger strikers’ have never been high, but, although they are insistent on realising their demands, the hunger strikes also have another aim and another measure of success, and that is the strengthening of their movement, both within the Kurdish community and beyond.

This desperate action is a response to their failure to get noticed through more conventional means, but the ability of the wider world to ignore even this vast demonstration of selfless determination is shocking, if perhaps no longer surprising. In the UK, the concerted efforts of activists inspired by the Welsh Kurdish hunger striker, Imam Şiş, have begun to force the issue into the mainstream political consciousness, but we will need to do a lot more to breach the walls of national self-interest and move out from the obsession with Brexit, if we want the Kurds to receive the attention their action and case deserve.

We need more people out on the streets as they were in Cardiff yesterday, but we can also begin to achieve something from the comfort of our homes by sending letters to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and writing to MPs and newspaper letters pages.

Sarah Glynn

(My drawings show the hunger strikers 6 weeks ago.)

Below are links to all the articles I have published recently about the hunger strike and the situation in Turkey. (Updated 14 May)

STUC supports Kurdish hunger strikers Common Space 18 April 2019

Ken Loach backs 7000 Kurdish protestors on hunger strike The National 14 April 2019

Kurdish solidarity protest at Scottish Parliament marks Ocalan’s 70th birthday Common Space 4 April 2019

‘Turkish thumbs down to Erdogan, thanks to Kurdish election strategy’ Common Space 1 April 2019

Write a letter in support of the Kurdish hunger strikers Common Space 29 March 2019

‘The plight of Kurdish hunger strikers grows – we must not ignore them’ The National 24 March 2019

As the hunger strike rolls on, let’s join the Kurds in a celebration of resistance Common Space 21 March 2019

‘MP remains committed to Kurdish struggle amidst 121 day hunger strike’ The National 8 March 2019

‘Meeting the Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg has restored my belief in humanity’ Morning Star 28 February 2019

Kurdish hunger strike first hand account: 70 days without food and still smiling Common Space 26 February 2019

‘Yesterday Mandela, tomorrow Ocalan’ Common Space 15 February 2019

‘The Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg who would die for their love of life’ The National 10 February 2019

‘Hunger strikers tell the world of Turkish torture of jailed Kurdish leader’ The National 3 February 2019

‘Interviews with Kurdish hunger strikers’ Common Space 30 January 2019

‘First meeting with the Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg’ Common Space 25 January 2019

‘Why are 162 Kurdish political prisoners on hunger strike’ Common Space 9 January 2019

An urgent appeal from my hunger striking friend, Dr Kardo Bokanî, to his friends and colleagues

The letter below is from my friend Kardo Bokanî, who taught political philosophy at University College Dublin. He has asked me to send it out for him because, after 66 days without food, he no longer has the mental concentration needed to organise this, and his eyesight has also been affected. I have visited Kardo and the other hunger strikers in Strasbourg, and came away feeling that if the rest of us shared just a fraction of their integrity and commitment, the world would be a much better place. I have just read the most recent report on their deteriorating health, and it’s terrifying. I hope that, after you have read Kardo’s letter, you will want to add your name to our open letter to the Council of Europe and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, in support of the Hungers strikers’ very simple, human rights-based demand. They are calling on these institutions to act to make Turkey, which is a member of the Council of Europe, end the isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, and allow him visits from his family and lawyers, in line with European Human Rights law, the UN Mandela Rules on minimum rights for political prisoners, and Turkey’s own constitution.

This letter is written from academics in Europe, but if you don’t fall into that category, you can still show your support by ensuring more people learn about what is happening. And letters to parliamentary representatives can help. It is an appalling indictment of our political system and mainstream media that these selfless political activists have felt the need to put their lives on the line in order to try and get their message heard. But we can at least help amplify it.

If you would like to add your name to our letter, please email me at, along with the name of your academic institution if you have one. And please share this appeal widely. I would like to get the letter off by next Monday (25th February) at the latest.

Thank you

Sarah Glynn


Dear friends and colleagues,

Dear academics, intellectuals and philosophers,

I write from the Kurdish hunger strike in Strasbourg to ask you for your support in our demand that the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who has been held in solitary confinement for the last twenty years, be allowed his basic human rights.

I am an Irish citizen, and with 13 other political activists, including a lawyer, a former MP, a politician, an intellectual and a journalist, I have been on indefinite hunger strike in Strasbourg since 17 December. We based ourselves here because it is the home of the Council of Europe. There are now over 300 Kurds on indefinite hunger strike in different places, many of them political prisoners in Turkey. The hunger strikes were begun by imprisoned MP, Leyla Güven on 7 November. The aim of our action is to end the inhumane isolation that the Turkish state has imposed on Ocalan. We demand that he be allowed his right to regular visits by his family members and lawyers, as required by international law on human rights and Turkey’s own constitution.

Ocalan is not an ordinary political prisoner. First, he is a political figure revered by millions of Kurds as their rightful leader, who has dedicated his life to Kurdish emancipation from the brutal, internal colonialism practised by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Second, he is a political theorist whose philosophy gave shape to what we see now in Northern Syria (Rojava); a democratic, multi-cultural and feminist society that has been admired by progressive forces throughout the world. Third, he has been the most vocal politician in Turkey urging for peace and a democratic solution to the Kurdish conflict. To silence a political figure such as Ocalan is to silence the most vital voice for peace in Turkey.

You may rightfully ask, why would you put your life in danger? The answer is straightforward: Europe’s indifference towards the Kurdish issue in general and the Ocalan case in particular, has left us with no alternative. The continued failures of European institutions, such as the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Council of Europe, to carry out their duty are forcing us, as European citizens, to embark on this fatal course. Their failure to act points to a crisis of democracy and loss of humane values, and they will be responsible for any fatality. Ultimately, the European institutions need to do much more than support our simple demand, but what we ask should be a practical, attainable first step.

So long as our demand is not met, we will not end our strike. The prospect of death does not scare us away from our protest. We understand that we, as humans, are accountable for the world we live in. We, together, have the power to decide what that world looks like. We choose not to accept the global retreat from democracy. We choose to push back against the deafening silence and indifference to inhumanity.

As a young political philosopher who taught at University College Dublin (UCD), and on behalf of more than 300 hunger strikers, I call upon you to urge the European institutions to hear the call of their citizens – who may perish at any moment in Strasbourg – and to fulfil their responsibility, set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, to help lift the isolation imposed on Ocalan before it is too late.

Kardo Bokanî


18 February 2019

Scotland says, ‘Freedom for Öcalan is Freedom for Us All’

These photographs were taken last week in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. They include an MP (SNP), a former MSP (Labour), a city councillor and many trade unionists – and a whole lot of other people from all backgrounds who want to show their support.

The 15th of February was the 20th anniversary of Abdullah Öcalan’s abduction by the CIA and imprisonment in a Turkish jail. Öcalan’s ideas are central to the feminist, secular, grassroots democracy being developed in the autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, and his involvement is key to peace in Turkey and the wider area. His significance to the Kurdish struggle is demonstrated by the over 300 Kurds currently on indefinite hunger strike to demand that Turkey complies with basic human rights and allows him visits by his family and his lawyer. You can read more about Öcalan and his importance here.

“Öcalan is a prisoner who is becoming mythical, as Mandela in the twentieth century, so he in the twenty-first. He expresses a series of concepts that in the 21st century are increasingly becoming the building blocks for the political construction of a new world.” Antonio Negri


Actions for Öcalan on the 20th anniversary of his imprisonment

Please show your support on the street or from your own home!

Thursday, Edinburgh, March called by Edinburgh Kurdish Community Centre going from Princes Street outside Waverley Station to the Turkish consulate and on to Holyrood. Gather at 11am

Friday, Dundee, Stall with megaphone and leaflets in the city centre. 1-2pm

Saturday, Glasgow, Buchanan Steps, from 1pm

You can also demonstrate your support by sending us a photograph of yourself holding a sign that reads ‘Freedom for Öcalan is freedom for us all’. (You can send it to,  or through our Facebook page.) Here is a pdf copy of the sign: FREEDOM FOR OCALAN

We intend to make a collage of everyone’s pictures, but please share on Facebook and Twitter too (#FreedomForÖcalan).


This is a call that has been taken up by Unite, the GMB, and other unions, and endorsed by the TUC and STUC. Its importance was recognised by last year’s Durham Miners’ Gala – the biggest trade union gathering in the UK – when they chose it as their international cause.

The republic of Turkey is founded on an ethnic Turkish nationalism that allows no room for the expression of other identities. The large Kurdish minority have found themselves subject to brutal attempts at Turkification, which have outlawed their language and culture and repeatedly subjected them to devastating collective punishments. In 1978, a group of Kurds felt that the wider leftist movements, of which they were part, failed to understand the importance of this cultural suppression, and they established their own Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), under Öcalan’s leadership.

On 15th February 20 years ago, Kurdish leader, Abdullah Öcalan, was abducted, with the help of the CIA, and brought back to Turkey, where he was condemned to death. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey ended the death penalty in order to be considered for EU membership. For 20 years he has been held on the closely-guarded island prison of Imrali. He has used that time to develop the ideas that have inspired the feminist, multicultural, grassroots democracy in the autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, and to try and negotiate a peaceful and respectful future for the Kurds in Turkey. But in recent years he has been kept in total isolation, denied even the visits of his family and his lawyers.

The PKK has morphed from a Marxist-Leninist separatist movement to a force for local autonomy and cultural freedom, but it is still seen as unacceptable by the Turkish state. While the PKK, like Mandela, has fought a guerrilla struggle, their ideas have also been pursued through constitutional politics. However, even the predominantly-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), which keeps firmly within the legal framework, has faced constant harassment and violent physical attacks – and has seen most of its MPs and mayors arrested.

For millions of Kurds, Öcalan is not only their acknowledged leader, but a vital symbol of their desire for freedom. For everyone who hopes for a better world, he should be acknowledged as the driving force behind the inspiring social and political changes taking place in predominantly-Kurdish Northern Syria. And he is widely recognised as the person who has the support, the will and the ability to negotiate a peaceful settlement, when the Turkish government agrees to engage.

The importance given to Öcalan is reflected in the more than 300 people now on hunger strike to press their call for the end to his isolation. This modest demand simply requires Turkey to follow its own constitution and allow visits from his family and lawyers. These visits are also required by international human rights law, which regards isolation as a form of torture.

This hunger strike was led by HDP MP Leyla Güven, who, on Friday, reaches her 100th day without food. The 14 hunger strikers in Strasbourg and Imam Sis in Wales will then have reached day 61. Most of the hunger strikers are political prisoners who are treated extra harshly. All these people are putting their lives on the line because other forms of campaigning have left the world unmoved.

If you want to give support to the hunger strikers’ basic call for human rights, please check out some suggested actions here.

How the Turkish state treats hunger-striking prisoners

There are currently 295 political prisoners in Turkish jails on hunger strike for an end to Ocalan’s isolation. We have jsut received this list of violations of their rights, as documented by lawyers:

  • Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against all prisoners who were on a perpetual and non-perpetual hunger strike. Disciplinary action was taken against prisoners who were on a hunger strike in Bandirma No.2 Type-T Prison.
  • Adem Arslan who is currently in Edirne type F prison, was forcibly dragged and taken out of his prison cell by soldiers to be taken to his court hearing. Arslan was subjected to physical and verbal assault. In Edirne type F Closed Prison, the prisoners are not allowed to take any forms of medication including Vitamin B Tablets, or any other multi-vitamins.
  • Prisoners Cesim Yildirim and Ersan Nazlier were sentenced to an extra 27 months of imprisonment for continuing with the indefinite hunger strike. Disciplinary actions were also taken against the two prisoners, including all fax and letters sent by the hunger strikes.
  • Ibrahim Kaya who is currently in Kandira Closed Prison, a long term hunger striker, has lost 10 kilos. As a result of hunger strike activities his health conditions continues to deteriorate with every passing day.
  • In most of the prisons any form of medication, such as Vitamin B Tablets and carbonate, is not given to the prisoners. These are vitamins that were already used before going into sick bay. It is reported that the carbonate is needed during the hunger strike because the majority of the prisoners cannot afford to purchase medications.
  • On 26/12/2018 Suleyman Benzer who has started a hunger strike, was put into a single cell after his action. It has been confirm that it is not possible to carry out his basic needs by himself.
  • As the five indefinite hunger strikers refused to be taken into Sick Bay, their daily health check-up is not carried out by the Prison officers.
  • Zerdest Onducu, an indefinite hunger striker who started his strike on 23rd December 2018 was only examined once by doctors in Edirne Type T Prison on 18th January 2019. Health personnel are insufficient in terms of necessary controls in Silivri No. 5 L Type Prison. Regular checks are not being done frequently. Even when these are done they are not being done professionally or taken seriously. A team of medical staff are acting ideologically and they are verbally abusive with their sarcastic attitudes.

A message for the annual International Brigade commemoration in Dundee

As today’s world draws ever closer to that of the 1930s, we look for the current forces of resistance – the Republican Spain of our times. One of the greatest sources of hope, and the most inspiring, must be the Kurdish movement in Northern Syria. Here the power vacuum created by the civil war has allowed the Kurds and their neighbours to establish an autonomous area based around grassroots democracy, women’s rights and a multicultural society. But this area of hope is under threat from Turkey, who have already invaded and taken over the canton of Afrin, and would like to clear the whole area of both Kurds and democracy.

We ask you to commemorate those who fought and died for Republican Spain by giving support to those fighting for a better world in today’s Syria.

The Kurds and their allies, who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, are brave and effective fighters. They have proved themselves in leading the fight against ISIS, but they have no air power. Their urgent demand is for a no-fly zone over northern Syria, and we can put pressure on our elected representatives to make this a reality.

Many of the political ideas that have inspired the society that is being established in northern Syria, and that the Kurds also attempted to put into practice in eastern Turkey, were developed by the hugely respected Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan. On Friday it will be 20 years since Ocalan was abducted, in a plot involving the CIA, and sent back to Turkey, where he has been imprisoned ever since. Increasingly he has been kept in total isolation, denied visits from even his family and his lawyers. This is against the Turkish constitution as well as against international human rights law, which regards it as torture. It is also a major block to any future peace settlement for the Kurds in Turkey, as Ocalan has been a dedicated peace negotiator, with the popular support to make peace a reality

Over 300 Kurds have gone on indefinite hunger strike to demand an end to this illegal isolation. Most are political prisoners in Turkish jails. Others are in different places around the world, including 14 in Strasbourg, where they are trying to put pressure on the European Institutions to censure Turkey (which is a member of the council of Europe) and to visit Ocalan. A hunger strike is an action of last resort, only taken when the world refuses to listen. We can help make their voices heard. We have put together a list of actions that people can do to give support to the hunger strikers and their cause.


No Fly Zone key to future of Northern Syria – Salih Muslim tells Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group on Kurdistan

Last week Salih Muslim, head of foreign affairs for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the leading political party in the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, joined us by Skype for a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Kurdistan at the Scottish Parliament. We were able to get first hand news of the situation in Northern Syria from a key political actor. We heard practical analysis of the military situation, and, crucially, we learnt that their one vital demand is for a no-fly zone to protect them from Turkish attack. Salih stressed that, with this, their own Syrian Democratic forces (SDF) would be well able to protect them on the ground. While the best solution would be for a no-fly zone to be organised by the UN, Salih saw possibilities for it to be guaranteed by other forces – by an international coalition, the Russians or the US. They could even work with the Syrian Government, though without going back to the situation in 2011. Salih reminded us that they have always made it clear that they consider themselves part of Syria, and that they are open for dialogue with everyone. Representatives from the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) have been to Russia to present a road map for a democratic decentralised solution for the whole country, but are still waiting for the Russians’ response. They have also sent a delegation to the US.

Trump’s sudden announcement that the US was going to withdraw their troops came as a surprise to the DFNS, as it did to everyone. They have always been aware that the US coalition is not in Syria to protect them, but only a week earlier, US officers in Rojava had told them that their troops wouldn’t leave until Daesh was defeated, the area was stable, and Iran was out of Syria – none of which has happened.

They have a lot of evidence of how Turkey is helping Daesh. Turkey is trying to build a new empire, and the situation in Idlib is especially complicated. Turkey had agreed to destroy Al Nusra in Idlib, but have not kept their promise. Daesh, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda will all take a long time to be defeated, and Turkey is ready to help all these groups.

Asked about Afrin, Salih made it clear that the fight is far from over, assuring us ‘we will get it back for sure’. At present, though, there are some 120,000 people displaced from Afrin living in nearby Shahada, where it is very difficult for them to receive the vital help they need. They are effectively under siege from Turkey on one side and the Syrian regime on the other, and Syria has even blocked medicines from getting through.

Asked about Manbij, Salih explained that the city is protected by Manbij Military Council, which is part of the SDF. There are also still US coalition forces in the city. When Turkey began massing their forces from the north, in preparation for an invasion, Manbij Military Council contacted the Syrian Regime forces for support, through the Russians. There is a base of Regime and Russian forces west of Manbij. So far, Turkey has not moved further. A recent bomb that killed four US soldiers they believe to be the work of Turkish mercenaries trying to speed the US withdrawal. Manbij Military Council continues to patrol one side of the de-facto border, while Turkish troops patrol the other.

Salih explained how, in places liberated from Daesh, such as Manbij and Raqqa, they have arranged lectures and discussions to help people understand how different ethnic and religious groups can live together, and to learn the importance of women’s rights. As a result, Arab women have been joining the Asayis (the local security force) and the YPJ.

It was good to see Salih in Scotland again, even if only virtually. As usual, he ended with a reminder that visitors are welcome to come and see Northern Syria for themselves.

Trades Councils support Kurdish hunger strikers

Aberdeen TUC

Last night Trade Unionists from Aberdeen and Dundee sent messages of support to the hundreds of Kurds currently on indefinite hunger strike, and demanded action to end the isolation of Kurdish political leader, Abdullah Öcalan.

The Dundee Trades Council meeting was an AGM and was open to friends for a discussion of anti-cuts actions. After the meeting we gathered for a group photo with the Freedom for Ocalan flag. The Freedom for Ocalan campaign was the international issue supported by last year’s Durham Miners’ Gala, the biggest gathering of Trade Unions in the UK – but we had to warn everyone in the photo that posting an image of Ocalan on Facebook can get you banned. His is the only image treated in this way.

Dundee TUC

The statement from Aberdeen Trades council included an important comparison with solidarity actions against apartheid, and we quote it in full below. Fiona Napier, Secretary of ATUC, recently visited the fourteen hunger strikers in Strasbourg with Sarah Glynn from SSK. Fiona notes: “This is not the first time that Kurds have felt that hunger strike is the only option open to them. Those we spoke with in Strasbourg pointed out that they have tried every other avenue, and it has achieved nothing for the Kurdish cause, or Öcalan. All they are asking from the international community is to recognise and support their action, and for all of us to push our politicians to hold Turkey to account.”

Here is the Aberdeen Statement:

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) stands with our Kurdish comrades currently on indefinite hunger strike, and echoes their call for an end to the isolation of Kurdish political leader Abdullah Öcalan, incarcerated on the Turkish prison island of İmralı for the past 20 years. Such isolation is deemed a form of torture, outlawed by international law. ATUC calls on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to carry out its fundamental duty and visit Öcalan in prison. We also call on our elected representatives to do all in their power to see that pressure is put on Turkey to comply with human rights legislation.

Furthermore, we recognise the respect with which Öcalan is held by millions of Kurds who regard him as their leader; the hugely progressive impact of his ideas on women’s rights, democracy, and multi-ethnic society; and the vital role that he can play in negotiating a peaceful settlement between the Kurds and the Turkish Government.

International solidarity and action were required to end South African apartheid and see Nelson Mandela lead his people to freedom and justice after decades of imprisonment on Robben Island. The Kurdish people in their struggle for justice demand no less from us – and they demand justice for their imprisoned leader, locked in isolation in his island prison.

Here is the report of the Dundee meeting in the Kurdish media

Here is their report on Aberdeen

And here is the report on the Aberdeen Trades Council blog

How can we support the hunger strikers?

They are starving themselves so that the world takes notice and compels Turkey to end the isolation of Abdullah Ocalan. We can help spread their message, we can put pressure on our elected representatives, and we can send them our personal support directly. Here are some suggested actions: (You can write to your MPs etc via this link:

1/ Check for news to read and share on and on our Scottish Solidarity with Kurdistan facebook page,

2/ Sign the petition calling on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to visit Ocalan,

3/ Ask your union to send this information to all members and to consider submitting an emergency motion to the STUC conference. And ask your local Trades Council to contact affiliated unions and to organise a public meeting, and to consider sending a branch delegation to visit the hunger strikers in Strasbourg, as a show of solidarity.

4/ Ask your MP to sign this EDM,; to raise the issue of Ocalan’s illegal isolation publicly wherever possible; to demand that the Foreign Minister puts pressure on Turkey to comply with its obligations to end the isolation of Ocalan and to restart the peace talks; and to demand that the UK stops selling Turkey weapons. It is the Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt, who is the UK representative on the Council of Europe, so they should specifically ask him to get the European institutions to back their words with actions and make Turkey comply with their own constitution and European human rights conventions.

5/ You can also email the Foreign Secretary directly on, with a copy to your MP.

6/ Ask your MEP to push for the EU to stop giving Turkey financial aid. You could also ask them to visit the hunger strikers when they go to Strasbourg

7/ Ask your MSP to sign this Motion,; to show public support for the hunger strikers’ call; and to ensure that no more Scottish Government money is given to firms that sell weapons to Turkey.

8/ Organise a public demonstration to raise awareness of the hunger strike. Share details of any events with us so we can publicise, and also share pictures so we can pass on to the Kurdish media.

9/ Send a personal postcard directly to the hunger strikers at 273 Avenue de Colmar, Strasbourg 67100, France

10/ And if you are able to go to Strasbourg, or Newport, yourself, you can be sure that your visit will be hugely appreciated. Please contact us if you are planning a visit.

Here is some background information you can use in your letters:

The isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan is contrary to Turkey’s own constitution and to international human rights law. Ocalan’s ideas have inspired a major movement for grassroots, multi-ethnic secular democracy, and the respect in which he is held makes him key to a peaceful settlement for the Kurds in Turkey – an ideal for which he has strived repeatedly over the last two decades.

Ocalan is in his 20th year of imprisonment by Turkey and is being denied access to his family and to his lawyers. Ocalan’s importance, together with the lack of international action, has forced the Kurds to take the desperate step of mass indefinite hunger strikes. MP Leyla Guven has been on hunger strike since 8 November. She has been joined by over 250 other political prisoners in Turkish jails and also by Kurdish activists around the world, including 14 at the seat of the European parliament in Strasbourg, and Imam Sis in the Kurdish Community Centre in Newport, Wales, who began their own hunger strike on 17 December.

The Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, regards Isolation as a torture and a crime against humanity, but they need to act on their words. The European Court of Human Rights must take action against Turkey on many counts, and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture must fulfil its role and visit Ocalan in prison. At the same time, the EU and UK must end their friendly engagement with Turkey, and European countries, including the UK, must stop selling Turkey weapons that will be used to suppress dissidents and minorities at home and attack Kurdish areas across the border.

In response to the pressure of the hunger strike, the Turkish Government has allowed Ocalan’s brother a brief, ten-minute, visit – the first in 2 ½ years – and they have allowed Leyla Guven home on the 78th day of her strike. But the strikers are united in their determination that these token gestures are not enough and that they won’t be distracted from their fundamental and simple demand.

As Leyla Guven says, ‘The isolation of Ocalan is a barrier on the way to peace.’



On leaving the Kurdish hunger strikers in Strasbourg

2 of the hunger strikers, Gulustan and Kardo


Their bellies are empty, but their hearts are full.

As the kilogrammes fall away, so the morale keeps building,

And the smiles – can we ever forget those smiles?


Eleven men and three women putting their lives on the line

And for each one, nine others happy to be in their place

An ultimate act of will that throws down a challenge of vulnerability

What power is so strong that it can overthrow the most basic instinct for survival?


‘We starve because we love life’ – they tell us

We risk our own lives so our children can enjoy theirs


They are here for Ocalan, far away in a Turkish jail

Ocalan, who must be freed

But for now, a simple demand –

To make Turkey follow their own constitution and end his isolation


A simple demand, but no-one listens

They protest, and no one hears

They march and no one sees

They lobby and no one cares

So the world’s indifference has brought them to this

How many must die for the world to take notice?


And Ocalan?

What man can inspire such devotion?


His portrait looks down from a thousand walls

But this moustached uncle is no Stalin

His philosophy inspires deepest democracy and freedom

He gives us that Kurdish smile

For twenty years he has led the call for peace

Ready for the time when Turkey will respond with sincerity

He holds the key to the Kurdish question

But Turkey still guards the lock


I fly home to humdrum reality

And the enormity of what I have seen only gets harder to comprehend

But those fourteen men and women have revived my belief in humanity


Revolutionaries are not just figures in flickering black and white

They are struggling in Turkish prisons and Rojava villages

And in a non-descript community centre among the nineteenth century apartment blocks of Strasbourg


Sarah Glynn

Amsterdam Airport

26th January 2019