Kurdish deputies, inmates end hunger strike upon call by PKK leader

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Kurdish deputy Leyla Güven

Several Kurdish lawmakers and thousands of prison inmates in Turkey have ended their hunger strike, heeding a call from jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan, deputies said on Sunday, 200 days after the protest was launched, Reuters reported.

The decision removed a source of tension in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey after Ankara let Öcalan meet with his lawyers this month for the first time since 2011, triggering speculation about possible fresh efforts to end conflict in the region.

Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Leyla Güven began a hunger strike in November in a bid to end Öcalan’s years of isolation by securing him regular access to his family and lawyers.

“Comrades who have committed themselves to hunger strikes and death fasts, I expect you to end your protest,” Öcalan said in a statement read out by one of his lawyers at a news conference in Istanbul on Sunday morning.

Öcalan has been held in an island prison since Turkish special forces captured him in Kenya in 1999 and is revered among Kurdish HDP supporters who see him as key to any peace process.

On Wednesday, the lawyers visited him for the second time this month. Authorities had repeatedly rejected earlier requests to visit him, citing reasons including ship repairs and poor weather.

In Diyarbakır, the southeast’s largest city, a hunger-striking deputy announced the end of the protest at a news conference. Hunger strikers’ mothers, wearing white headscarves, applauded and chanted in Kurdish “Long live the prison resistance.”

Before being transported to a hospital by ambulance, Güven said the hunger strike had achieved its goal.

“But our struggle against isolation and our struggle for social peace will continue in all areas. This struggle must lead to an honorable peace,” she said in a written statement.

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