His remarks came less than an hour after Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin announced the official figures of inmates refusing food. Ergin said there are currently 683 people on a hunger strike at 66 different prisons.
Hundreds of Kurdish inmates across Turkish prisons launched a collective hunger strike about 40 days ago in protest of the alleged isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) chief, by the government on İmralı island in the Marmara Sea. Öcalan has not been allowed to see anyone — with the exception of a single visit from his brother — for the past 15 months. His lawyers have complained that planned visits always got canceled with official excuses such as adverse weather conditions not appropriate for a ferry ride to the island.
According to latest reports that appeared in various newspapers, about 200 prisoners have stopped fasting, but the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) says the news reports aren’t true. It was not clear whether the official figures provided by Ergin include those who allegedly stopped their death fast or not.
Responding to a question about the hunger strike on Wednesday in the German capital of Berlin, where he is on an official trip, Erdoğan also said more than half of the hunger strikers have said they would end their hunger strikes adding that all medical measures have been taken in prisons across the country.Leaders from the BDP are telling those in prison to “die on hunger strike, while they are eating lamb kebab,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish prime minister has repeatedly said the BDP is tied to the PKK, but the party denies an outright link, saying instead the two groups share common support.
The hunger strikers are mostly serving sentences for membership of the PKK or the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that encompasses the PKK.
Demonstrations and protests
BDP supporters have also been staging demonstrations across Turkey in support of the hunger strikes. In a related event, a 31-year-old man was seriously injured during clashes between BDP supporters and opposing groups in Bursa the night of Oct. 28.
The pro-BDP demonstrators had gathered on Oct. 28 in Bursa’s Yavuzselim region in front of a local Justice and Development Party (AK Party) building to express support for hundreds of inmates on a hunger strike.A nationalist group attacked the BDP protestors on Oct. 28, resulting in the injury of İlker Kaya. The man is still at Şevket Yılmaz Training and Research Hospital in intensive care. Doctors have said no improvement has taken place in his condition. Four people were detained and later released in relation to the injury, and the investigation is still on. The Bursa Prosecutor’s Office is conducting the probe. Security forces are still taking measures in the Yavuzselim neighborhood.
Bursa Police Chief Ali Osman Kaya on Wednesday told the Anatolia news agency that Kaya had been shot in the head with a firearm. He said another person, Funda Urul (20), had been injured with a stone that hit her head. Urul’s injury did not necessitate hospitalization, Kahay said.
He said protests continued in the city after the clashes, but as of Wednesday, the protesting crowds had dispersed.
In a related development, the Batman Governor’s Office announced on Wednesday that it had calculated the financial loss suffered by the province due to businesses not opening in response to a call from the BDP and some civil society organizations to support the hunger strikes was estimated at TL 5 million.
In Batman, and other southeastern cities, many stores didn’t open on Tuesday, and many parents didn’t send their children to school to show their support for the fasting inmates.
The hunger strikes were also covered in the international press, with prominent media organizations, including the Financial Times and the BBC, covering the story.
In the meantime, two civilians were killed in a mine blast near a military outpost in the eastern province of Tunceli on Tuesday.
Also in Hakkari, PKK supporters attacked the rector’s building at Hakkari University, making it unusable, on Tuesday.