By Fr Joe Ryan
L-R: Mehmet Sait Yilmaz, Estella Schmid, Nahide Zengin, Fr Joe Ryan and Ali Poyraz [Hunger Strikers in T-shirts]
KURDISH HUNGER STRIKERS March 2019
Fr Joe Ryan
On Thursday evening, 21st March 2019, I visited the Kurdish Centre based in St John Vianney Parish, West Green N15. There I met the three local Kurdish hunger strikers, Ali Poyraz, Nahide Zengin, and Mehmet Sait Yilmaz. They have been on hunger strike since March 14th. Their only nourishment is water, some sugar and salt. At present they are in good spirits and really appreciate any support and solidarity. Their efforts are to highlight the twenty years imprisonment and totally inhumane conditions of their Kurdish Leader, Abdullah Ocalan. He has been in solitary confinement on Imrali Island without access to lawyers and family for the past five years.
As members of the Imrali Delegation, we have made several visits to Istanbul with requests to visit him in prison. We have been making representations in Brussels and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, but with no success. Many Trade Unions and others have taken up the cause for Abdullah Ocalan’s release, but without recognition or response from the Turkish Government. No country will take an interest in the campaigns, even though basic human rights are denied and the Geneva Conventions ignored.
L-R: Ali Poyraz, Osman Baydemir, [Former Mayor of Diyarbakir], Nahide Zengin, Mehmet Sait Yilmaz and Fr Joe Ryan. [Hunger Strikers in T-shirts]
Abdullah Ocalan, (he “Nelson Mandela” of the Kurdish people) has written many peaceful plans from his prison cell on Imrali Island. Peace negotiations with the Turkish Government were progressing, but then when it seemed like something might happen, the latter backed off. The main problem is that the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) is still on the international terrorist list. The intricacies of the political situation in Syria make it convenient for Turkey, USA, Israel and others that it should remain so. Abdullah Ocalan is a key player towards peace in the Middle East and beyond. It’s very difficult to negotiate for peace from a prison cell in solitary confinement!!
Any publicity and solidarity for the Kurdish cause is very much appreciated by the Kurdish community.
Fr Joe Ryan Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
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