Turkey: Hunger Strikes, U.S. Assistance, and Press Freedom
U.S. Vice Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld visited Turkey to discuss proving assistance to help combat the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said the U.S. is sharing tactics that it used during its operation against Osama bin Laden in order to “achieve effective results in fighting the PKK.” Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for unity between Turks and Kurds, Turkey “has been striking PKK targets with a frequency not seen in years,” according to the World Tribune.
Prisoners in Sincan Prison entered the 43rd day of a hunger strike, part of a group of roughly 630 prisoners in 58 prisons around Turkey protesting the isolation of convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and demanding an end to restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language. Turkey’s Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin pleaded for the inmates to stop the strike. “Their voice has been heard. The objective has been reached,” Ergin said. Human Rights Association Chairman Ozturk Turkdogan confirmed the prisoners are drinking sugared and salted water, along with vitamins.
Meanwhile, a report issued on press freedom in Turkey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) identified 61 journalists imprisoned for their work in the country. Of those being held, roughly 75 percent have not been convicted of a crime and are waiting for a resolution on their case. “The CPJ has found highly repressive laws, … a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state, and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government,” the report noted. In an article for the Atlantic Times, Michael Koplow said, “while the CPJ’s effort to highlight serious abuses by the Erdoğan government is admirable, it is unfortunately also overdue and thus destined to be ineffectual.”