BY MARTIN HILL
LONDON - "Support the hunger strikers in prison in Kurdistan and Turkey," reads a large banner outside Halkevi Center, a Kurdish community center in Stoke Newington, north London. The center has become headquarters for organizing solidarity with 1,500 political prisoners in 40 prisons across Turkey who are on a hunger strike demanding prisoner-of-war status, as well as basic rights like access to lawyers, medical treatment, books, telephone calls, and family visits.
"The prisoners are protesting the brutality and torture rampant against political inmates in Turkey, and Ankara's repression of the Kurds," said Turkan Hilat, an activist in the Hunger Strikers Support Committee. According to Amnesty International, at least 15 inmates died in Turkish jails from torture in 1995 alone.
The prisoners' action began in Diyarbakir and has spread across the country. Among those participating are four former members of the Turkish parliament, sentenced to 15 years in jail for alleged membership in the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The group is one of the main organizations leading the Kurdish struggle for self-determination.
Since June 3, solidarity hunger strikes have been taking place
in cities throughout Europe. In London, 65 Kurds have joined the
hunger strike. "We want to live like human beings," said Hilat.
"Turks have their own passport and identity. We want the same. We
don't want borders between our people," she said, referring to
the division of Kurdistan between Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.
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