While there are many political prisoners that have joined the hunger strike recently, the action was started by a women MP in the National Assembly of Turkey, Leyla Güven
Women got together in Turkey to form, what they called, “The Chain of Life” to end the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned Kurdish leader, and also defend and call attention to the political prisoners’ hunger strike to support him.
While there are many political prisoners that have joined the hunger strike recently, the action was started by a women MP in the National Assembly of Turkey, Leyla Güven.
Leyla Güven is a representative from the opposition HDP party. She has a long history of being involved in politics. She served as the Mayor of Viranşehir, but was later arrested together with many Kurdish elected officials by the Turkish government in 2009. Leyla Güven was finally released in 2014 from the notorious Diyarbakır prison together with around 30 other Kurdish officials. After being elected to different positions in the Kurdish political parties, she entered the National Assembly in the June 24th, 2018 general Parliamentarian elections. The “Immunity” enjoyed by the elected National Assembly members allowed her to be released from another detention for a so-called “criticism of Turkish Military” charge. Turkey had started invading Syria illegally to attack the Kurdish people living in Syria and to grab land from a war devastated country. Güven, as well as other opposition, progressive, labor, academic and Kurdish groups did not sit silently as she criticized this illegal invasion. As a result, she was detained.
The events forced Leyla Güven to start a hunger strike on November 7, 2018 because the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, kept in a maximum-security island prison, was denied the regular and required visits from his family, attorneys or doctors to check his health. Initially hundreds of other political prisoners joined her, some even committed suicides to call attention to the isolation of the Kurdish national leader. Today, there are more than 7,000 political prisoners supporting Güven and participating the in the hunger strike in the prisons. But not too many people know about this. The media, mostly having succumbed to Erdoğan’s strict control of the news refuse to even mention the 7,000 hunger strikers or the MP who is leading this human rights cause.
On April 26, the women, mostly mothers and wives of the political prisoners who are on hunger strike, gathered at the metro station in Istanbul. Representative Güven at that time was on her 171st day into her hunger strike. Mostly donning their white scarves, the mothers and women demanded an end to the isolation of Apo, as he is known in the Kurdish region, the national leader in prison, that would also end the hunger strike their elected official and their loved ones were participating in.
While this and other supporting activities were held in Istanbul, in Ankara, the nation’s capital, the Women’s Assembly of the opposition HDP party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, gathered in a popular park to call attention to the inhuman conditions of isolation for Apo, as well as the hunger strikes. They chanted, “There are more than 7,000 on hunger strike, are you aware?”
Another “Chain of Life” event took place in Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey. This event was led by another women MP of HDP, Serpil Kemalbay. Women here, also wearing their white scarves, also wore aprons that read, “Let Leyla live, give your voice for life.” The Turkish police surrounded the women’s group and in no uncertain terms warned that if the word “isolation” was uttered they would break the gathering and arrest the participants.