Kurdish prisoners end hunger strike after leader’s call

Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Leyla Guven, who was jailed for a short while and who initially launched a hunger strike which other detainees then followed suit, leaves her home to go to a hospital on May 26, 2019 in Diyarbakir, in the Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 27 May 2019
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Kurdish prisoners end hunger strike after leader’s call

  • Turkish authorities have allowed lawyers’ visits for jailed militant Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as a result of the hunger strike

ANKARA: Thousands of prisoners in Turkey ended their hunger strike against the conditions of jailed militant Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, their representative told pro-Kurdish media on Sunday.

“After the call ... we are ending our hunger strikes,” Deniz Kaya said in a statement, quoted by Kurdish news agency ANF, following a call by Ocalan for the hunger strikes to end.

The protest began after Leyla Guven, a lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her hunger strike against Ocalan’s isolation in November.

Until May, Ocalan, who co-founded the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), did not have access to his lawyers for eight years.

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The protest began after Leyla Guven, a lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her hunger strike against Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan’s isolation in November.

After the first visit on May 2, Turkish authorities lifted an official ban on lawyers’ visits. Then on May 22, his lawyers made a second trip to see Ocalan.

Earlier on Sunday, his lawyer Nevroz Uysal read a message from Ocalan on May 22 in which he said the hunger strikes should come to an end after they had “achieved” their goal.

MP Guven said in a statement that although the hunger strike was successful, “our struggle against isolation and our struggle for social peace will continue in all areas.”

Some 3,000 prisoners across different prisons were on hunger strike and only consuming liquids and vitamin B, the HDP said, in solidarity with Guven who began her action while in custody and continued after she was released earlier this year.

Eight people also killed themselves over the issue, according to the party.

Kaya said 30 prisoners who had begun a “death fast” in April and May — only consuming water with sugar and salt — would also end their action.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 16 June 2019
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.