Imrali Prison, Turkey

Photo released by Ministry of Justice, Turkey

The hunger strike in Turkey by Kurdish prisoners and other Kurdish activists ended after an intervention by Abdullah Öcalan, from his prison on Imrali Island, on Saturday 17 November. Abdullah Öcalan’s message was announced by his brother Mehmet Öcalan.

Mehmet Öcalan had been taken to Imrali Island by ferry. The Turkish authorities had blocked visits for over a year, saying that the ferry was not working. The message the Kurdish leader gave to his brother, as reported by DIHA news agency, “I’m calling from here to ask you to end the hunger strikes now. This action has achieved its goals.”

Abdullah Öcalan’s brother said: “I met my brother, who hasn’t been allowed to see his lawyers for more than 15 months, for about 45 minutes. It was a face to face meeting and we obviously talked about the hunger strike. Everyone knows that only leader Apo can end the hunger strike”.

Abdullah Ocalan has been held in isolation on Imrali Island since August 2011. Prior to that he was held in group segregation with five other prisoners, following a decade of total isolation from 1999 to 2009. His lawyers say he has no access to a telephone or television and his newspapers are censored. They say the authorities have declined their requests to visit Öcalan 134 times since they last saw him more on July 27, 2011, usually blaming bad weather or breakdowns on the boat that would ferry them to Imrali.

One of the demands of the hunger strikers was for an end to Öcalan’s isolation and for the Turkish Government to open the way for peace talks with Öcalan’s full participation. It still isn’t clear whether the visit Mehmet Öcalan indicates an end to Abdullah Öcalan’s isolation. But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears to have given the green light for talks facilitated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation.

Turkish columnist Yavuz Baydar writes:

“Yet, if it was just an issue of defeating the opposition, the Kurdish problem would look like no other. It has to do with a considerable portion of an ethnic community, politicized from top to toe, running out of patience and convinced that no matter what Turkish government is elected, they will be the ones deceived.

Ankara’s policies since August 2011 look disturbingly reminiscent of old Turkey’s, and miscalculations — some deliberate — squeezed Erdoğan into a dark corner. He should understand now that he is still a key player needed to manage the crisis, but in a much more nuanced manner.

Will he or won’t he? This is the question.”

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