IHD Report on the Ongoing Hunger Strikes in Turkish Prisons





Turkey went through an extraordinary transformation both in administrative establishment and legal structure following the coup attempt of 15 July 2016. This transformation, unfortunately, rendered the inclusion of the “martial law” mindset of the military coup d’état by the junta of 12 September 1980 and the pursuant “state of emergency” mindset into the ordinary system. Under such circumstances, the struggle to overcome the darkness of 12 September along with the progress in human rights and freedoms started to get brought down in their entirety. This process has yet to come to an end. Such deterioration in the legal dimension was enhanced by the elimination of the slightest opportunity for effective opposition in the political field without having regard to any right or law. Now both politics has gone into a severe crisis and law has backtracked in a way that is virtually impossible to recover from. We say it is irrecoverable because the only way to redress the torment and grief that citizens were subjected to due to the rights violations that occurred during this period and those in the making can only be rendered possible by taking the time back. One of the most significant signs that reveals the deadlock both in law and politics is the INDEFINITE-NON-ALTERNATE hunger strikes initiated by Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Hakkari Deputy and Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-Chairperson Leyla Güven on 8 November 2018 and spanned to prisons in Turkey.

Since the days of 12 September Turkey has, time and again, experienced that hunger strikes and death fasts were resorted to in times where rights were not enforced, rights violations became the rule, and the political mechanism stayed disinterested. Leyla Güven, who has been on hunger strike for 94 days, was kept in prison for a very long time unlawfully and against the Constitution itself and courts’ rulings in spite of the fact that she was a deputy. Her release does not suffice for the necessary legal and political measures to put an end to hunger strike that she initiated. Yet, hundreds of prisoners incarcerated in Turkish prisons have adopted Leyla Güven’s demand and gone on indefinite-non-alternate hunger strikes on 28 December 2018 and 5 January 2019.

A coordination was established of lawyers from the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Platform of Lawyers for Freedom (Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Platformu -ÖHD); prisons and human rights committee members from İHD, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), ÖHD, Progressive Lawyers Platform (Çağdaş Hukukçular Platformu-ÇHP) along with members from concerned health organizations. The coordination, in its statement of 28 December 2018, informed the public that its members have been paying regular visits to prisons to observe all kinds of rights violations, particularly torture and ill-treatment, to secure effective conduct of investigations, to follow-up hunger strikers, to guarantee the safe deliverance of primary medical care without delay, and to provide reporting activities.

As of today Leyla Güven has been on an indefinite-non-alternate hunger strike for 94 days and at this stage her condition has escalated to a life-threatening stage. Currently 313 prisoners are on hunger strike.

Click to read the full report in English: Hunger Strikes_IHD Special Report_Feb 2019