Solidarity with hunger strikers

The political situation in Turkey seems to be getting even worse, with more and more opponents of President Erdogan being arrested and jailed, including members of the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) and the Free Women’s Congress, as well as many journalists, socialists and LGBTI+ campaigners.

Many of those jailed are Kurds, and the Turkish Army has also killed thousands of them since the the peace process broke down in 2015. Many Kurds have been involved in the fight against ISIS (Da’esh) in Syria; Turkey, having invaded and occupied Afrin with the aid of Islamist fighters now threatens other Kurdish areas in Syria.

A few weeks after I took these pictures, there were local elections in Turkey, and a surprise defeat for Erdogan’s candidate in the  Istanbul mayoral election. His response was to refuse to accept the democratic vote and declare the election invalid – with a re-run later this month.

I’ve photographed many Kurdish protests in London over the past 20 years, beginning with a protest in Whitehall against the illegal arrest of Kurdish leader Abudullah Öcalan in 1999. He has been in a Turkish island prison, mainly in solitary confinement since then, but demands for his release continue unabated.

On 7th November 2018 HDP MP Leyla Güven, then a prisoned in a Turkish jail, began a hunger strike calling for an end to the isolation of Öcalan . Many others, both prisoners in Turkish jails and outside, joined in her protest, which she continued after being released from prison pending her trial. The hunger strikes ended on 26th May after they acheived their aim and the isolation of Öcalan was ended.

After the protest in Trafalgar Square, the Kurds marched down to protest opposite Downing St, where the group of right-wing Brexiteers were also protesting. Rather to my surprise they greeted the Kurds with loud applause, I think, recognising them as fighting for their rights against authority, but perhaps unaware of their very different political views.

More at:
Rally supports Kurdish hunger strikers
Yellow Vests applaud Kurdish protesters

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