Hunger strike in Strasbourg entered 50th day
19 April 2012Like Bobby Sands and his comrades in Ireland, Kurds today are asking for their rights
On 1 March 1981, a 27 years old poet, revolutionary and people's MP begun and indefinite hunger strike in a jail in the North of Ireland, some 20 km from Belfast. Bobby Sands was the IRA (Irish Republican Army) Officer Command (OC). He was a prisoner in Long Kesh (today closed), better known as the H Blocks (for the characteristic H shape of its wings) or The Cage as it was called by republican prisoners.
In 1981 Boby Sands and nine comrades could no longer watch the younger prisoners being beaten and felt that they had no option but to hunger strike to the death, to establish in the eyes of the world that they were political prisoners fighting a just cause.
Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, had said: "How can I talk to them [the prisoners] when they have no support, no mandate?" Yet when Bobby Sands was elected by the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone (in April 1981) with more votes than Thatcher in Finchley, she became even more intransigent. She refused to negotiate and changed the law to prevent any other prisoner standing for election.
Today, thirty-one years on, yet other people's deputies have gone on hunger strike. They are in prison, in another part of the world, far from Belfast. They are the democratically elected Kurdish MPs. Şırnak MPs Selma Irmak and Faysal Sariyildiz, Mardin MP Gülser Yıldırım and Urfa MP Ibrahim Ayhan have been fasting for weeks. In Turkish prisons over a thousands prisoners are on hunger strike, some for 50 days. And in Europe, in the city of Strasbourg, 15 people, included 5 women, have today entered the 50th day of their fast. Yesterday they were in the European Parliament building. Asking for their rights, nothing more nothing less. Their rights to exist, to a dignified life, to express their ideas and opinion without fearing (or rather, certainty) of beeing jailed for it.
Europe cannot turns a blind eye to this hunger strike and should act quickly. The CPT (Committee for Prevention of Torture) should indeed send an envoy to Turkey. The people on hunger strike among other things ask to know what is happening to their leader, in jail in an apparently unreachable island. Abdullah Öcalan has been denied meeting with his lawyers since 27 July 2011. "We are looking for the truth", says yesterday Leyla Zana MP in Strasbourg, "that's why we are calling on the CPT to go to Turkey and visit Öcalan". Who fears truth ? Clearly not the Kurds.
The BDP deputies are in prison, like Bobby Sands was back in 1981. The people voted for them, in their thousands. Like Thatcher, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have become even more intransigent towards Kurds, Kurdish politicians, Kurdish journalists, lawyers, academics and towards whoever 'dare' to side with the Kurds in their demand for peace and dialogue. He could not stand, like Thatcher couldn't, the success the BDP enjoyed, which is ultimately the success peace enjoys. But to make peace is far more difficult than to make war. It requires political vision, generosity and creativity, as often Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, remarks. The BDP is proving generous, creative and with political vision, but it is faced with more and more obstacles and repression.
The hunger strike is the ultimate offence in Irish culture and law. Indeed in early medieval Ireland (before the Normans invasion) fasting in order to bring attention to an injustice which one felt under his lord, and thus embarrass him into a solution, was a common feature of society and this tactic was fully incorporated into the Brehon legal system. The tradition is ultimately most likely part of the still older Indo-European tradition of which the Irish were part.
Using your body to expose an injustice. It is what Bobby Sands (and many Irish republicans before him) and his nine comrades did back in 1981. It is what, not for the first time, the Kurdish BDP deputies are doing today. Their voice should be listened to and above all their demands should be answered to. In a letter she wrote when she began the hunger strike deputy Selma Irmak says "As a person who has been elected by the people of Şırnak and, as a woman who has sensibilities for life, I am no longer able to remain a passive spectator of this unfolding of events. Since I have been deprived of all means of expression, I have to use my body as the only available means of expression. I wish I were able to discuss and contemplate with all of you before making this decision. However, circumstances did not allow that. I would like you to know that my heart is always with you. The history of this prison in Diyarbakır forces us to take initiative and play a leadership role in resistance. I must admit that I am very excited and happy at the moment, knowing that I am able to fulfil at least some of my responsibility for my people".
Bobby Sands on 1 March 1981, on the first day of his hunger strike wrote in his diary, "I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world". And a few days later "They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal."
Europe can not stand and watch in silence. The people of Europe, these days busy again with filling the streets against an economic crisis they rightly enough are not willing to pay, should expose the plight of Kurdish people and should support the hunger strikers (as well as the deputies, there are 400 prisoners on an indefinite fast). As deputy Irmak writes "The Kurdish question has reached a point where only a democratic process based on dialogue and negotiation can bring peace and solution". It is to enhance this effort by the BDP and the Kurdish people that people in Europe should rise their voice and stand by the hunger strikers.
O. C. - ANF / STRASBOURG
ANF NEWS AGENCY