Leyla Güven, a deputy of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey, has been on a hunger strike since 7 November 2018 to protest the Turkish Government’s unlawful isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) banned by Turkey, who is serving a life-sentence on Imrali Island prison near Istanbul since his capture in 1999.
Last week, members of the European Parliament from the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, which brings together left-wing MEPs, and guest delegates (among the latter, MK Aida Touma-Sliman from the Communist Party of Israel) who were attending a conference named The Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean – An Active Volcano in Nicosia, Cyprus, issued the following statement.
“Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-chair and Peoples’ Democratic Party Hakkari MP Leyla Güven, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike for 66 days demanding an end to the isolation imposed upon Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Ocalan and for his freedom, has received support from European and Middle Eastern MPs.
“Today is the 66th day of her hunger strike, which has reached a critical stage. Her health is rapidly deteriorating. She has lost significant weight. She has a brain tumor but cannot take the necessary medicine because it must be taken on a full stomach. We are deeply worried about her declining health.
“Mr Öcalan has had all visitation rights from his family and lawyers denied. He is held at the Imrali Island prison since 1999. The last time his lawyers were permitted to visit him was on the 27 July 2011, despite the fact that there are cases pending against their client. The last family visit took place two years ago when his brother visited the prison on the 11 September 2016. There has been no news about the health and well being of Mr Öcalan since then, and all communication with anyone either by phone or by mail is strictly prohibited.
“Such absolute isolation of Mr Öcalan, who was one of the leading figures of the peace process between 2013 and 2015, is obstructing efforts to re-initiate dialogue and resume the peace process in the context of the Kurdish conflict.
“Leyla Güven was arrested on 31 January 2018 and has been held in Diyarbakir E-type High Security Prison. She faces up to 31 years and 6 months in prison due to her critical statements on Turkey’s invasion of Afrin in northwest Syria and other speeches she made as a Kurdish politician.
“Ms Güven was elected to the parliament as an HDP deputy for Hakkari while in prison. In clear violation of the Turkish Constitution and international law, she was not released from prison despite the fact that she gained parliamentary immunity in June 2018.
“We hear the message of Leyla Güven. Turkey should respect its own laws by immediately releasing Leyla from prison and meet her demands by putting an end to the unlawful isolation of Mr Öcalan and other political prisoners. The only solution to the Kurdish issue is peaceful and democratic dialogue, not isolation and imprisonment.”
The above statement was signed by MEPs Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin, Ireland), Lynn Boylan (Sinn Féin, Ireland), Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin, Ireland), Takis Hadjigeorgiou (AKEL, Cyprus), Kostadinka Kuneva (SYRIZA, Greece), Liadh Ní Riada (Sinn Féin, Ireland), Dimitris Papadimoulis (SYRIZA, Greece), Paloma Lopez (IU, Spain), Sabine Lösing (DIE LINKE, Germany), Lidia Senra (independent, Galicia), Neoklis Sylikiotis (AKEL, Cyprus), Ángella Vallina (IU, Spain), Miguel Viegas (PCP, Portugal).
Also signing the statement in support of Leyla Güven and Abdullah Öcalan were the following conference guests: Raid Fahmi (General Secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party), Aqel Taqz (Palestinian People’s Party), Aida Touma-Sliman (Communist Party of Israel) and Nizar Trabulsi (Syrian Communist Party Unified).