Joint Statement on Hunger Strikes in Turkish Prisons

Isolation and the On-going Indefinite-Non-Alternate Hunger Strikes in Turkish Prisons


Prisoners often went on hunger strikes in order to protest the deterioration of conditions in Turkish prisons and to prevent acts violating the ban on torture and ill-treatment.


HDP Hakkari deputy Leyla Güven has not been released in spite of the fact that she was elected as a member of the parliament and is still incarcerated in Diyarbakır E-Type Prison. Leyla Güven said in a statement released by her lawyers that she started an indefinite and non-alternate hunger strike on 8 November 2018 in order to protest the fact that Abdullah Öcalan, who has been imprisoned in İmralı F-Type High Security Prison, was not allowed to see his family and lawyers for a long time and this practice amounted to absolute isolation and to make authorities let Abdullah Öcalan use his legal rights and to remove this absolute isolation imposed on him. As of today, Leyla Güven is on the 51st day of her hunger strike.


80 prisoners in 17 prisons, listed in the appendix, have also stated that they were going on an indefinite and non-alternate hunger strike in order to end this isolation having agreed with the goal of the protest. Statements by lawyers released to the public indicate that this figure will go even higher beginning with 5 January 2019.


Legislation on the execution of sentences in Turkey does not set forth any provision that prescribes long-term ban on prisoners’ conferences with their lawyers and families. The Ministry of Justice issued a circular letter in order to let prisoners, who were kept in single and triple cells in F-type prisons, socialize with one another. Although such prisoners should have been permitted to get in touch with one another up to 10 hours a week in common prison areas according to this regulation, there are many problems in practice. This regulation is not implemented in many F-type prisons, notably Silivri Prison No. 9. These prisoners can nonetheless exercise their right to confer with their lawyers and families every fortnight during official work hours up to a certain point. It has, however, been observed that problems also occur regarding this practice as well.


But Abdullah Öcalan and 3 other people in İmralı Prison are not permitted to see their families and lawyers under no circumstances. This openly contradicts Law No. 5275 on the Execution of Sentences along with the by-law and regulation on the execution of sentences. The Ministry of Justice should immediately put an end to this unlawful practice and permit the prisoners in İmralı Prison to exercise their rights.


The Human Rights Association, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Platform of Lawyers for Freedom, Progressive Lawyers’ Platform, the prisons and human rights committees of relevant bar associations and relevant healthcare bodies have engaged in a coordination initiative in order to follow up these indefinite and non-alternate hunger strikes initiated by deputy Leyla Güven and maintained by a growing number of prisoners and to prevent gross right violations. This coordination group, just like in 2012, aims at monitoring hunger strikers in prisons, engaging in a dialogue with the Ministry of Justice to guarantee the safe deliverance of basic medical care to hunger strikers, ending isolation practices in prisons, preventing acts infringing the ban on torture and ill-treatment, and securing the implementation of effective investigative methods about those responsible. The coordination will establish local coordinating bodies in cities where they have branches and conduct monitoring and reporting activities.


It should also be kept in mind that the prisoners on indefinite and non-alternate hunger strike have the right to access certain medical care services within this process. It is of critical significance that hunger strikers have access to regular health checks in order to protect their lives. Moreover, medical care should include the following:


  • Hunger strikers should be provided daily with a minimum of 5 large glasses of water, 2 small teaspoons of salt, 5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate and 500 mg Vitamin B-1.
  • Supply and deliverance of Vitamin B-1 to hunger strikers should be ensured.
  • Health risks related to other conditions during the hunger strike should be eliminated. Material used should be clean and sanitary. Hunger strikers should be allowed to stay in a warm and humid place without having been exposed to much physical activity.
  • Hunger strikers should be informed about the manner in which they would take medication for their previously existing conditions.
  • Necessary information and opportunities should be provided for those helping and extending care for the hunger strikers. To this end, the information note “Points to Take into Account during Hunger Strikes” drafted by the Turkish Medical Association should be delivered to these people and the hunger strikers.
  • The “Treatment Care Protocol for Hunger Striker Patients” prepared by the Turkish Medical Association based on studies conducted with former hunger strikers on transition to feeding, replacement of deficiencies and the treatment of hunger strike-related illnesses and disorders should be implemented when the hunger strike is ended by the person’s free will and at the stage of transition to treatment and feeding.
  • Handcuffs should not be used during transfers to hospitals and treatment as it may give way to vomiting and pressure ulcers.
  • The physicians and healthcare personnel, who might be needed after the hunger strike ends and the stage of replacement and transition to feeding begins, should be ascertained beforehand and these medical professionals should be informed about the treatment to be provided.
  • Prison visits and monitoring works by “Independent Medical Follow-up Delegations” comprised of related professional bodies, healthcare and human rights organizations are important for treatment and alleviating complications. These delegations should be provided with the necessary convenience to visit prisons.



We reiterate our call to the Ministry of Justice to take action without delay to put an end to isolation in order not to risk the health of prisoners who went on indefinite and non-alternate hunger strikes, notably Leyla Güven.


Human Rights Association, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Platform of Lawyers for Freedom, Progressive Lawyers’ Platform



The Number and Locations of Prisoners on Indefinite and Non-Alternate Hunger Strike



Date Location Number of Prisoners on Hunger Strike
8 November 2018


Diyarbakır D-Type Prison 1 person (Leyla Güven)
16 December 2018 Gebze Closed Women’s Prison 5 people
Patnos L-Type Closed Prison 5 people
Elazığ F-Type Prison No. 1 3 people
Van F-Type Prison 5 people
Beşikdüzü Prison 3 people
Bakırköy Closed Women’s Prison 4 people
Kandıra F-Type Prison No. 1 6 people
Edirne F-Type Prison
Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison 5 people
Diyarbakır E-Type Closed Prison 4 people

Total: 42 people

20 December 2018 Burhaniye T-Type Prison 4 people
26 December 2018 Kırıkkale F-Type Prison 5 people
Şakran Women’s Closed Prison 3 people
Şakran T-Type Prison No. 2 5 people
Kırıklar F-Type Prison No. 1 3 people
Kırıklar F-Type Prison No. 2 2 people
Sincan Women’s Closed Prison 3 people
28 December 2018 12 prisoners in Kırıkkale Prison who have been on alternate hunger strike for 29 days stated that they would continue with the hunger strike in an indefinite and non-alternating manner beginning with 28 December 2018.