Gülseren Yoleri, Human Rights Association (IHD) Istanbul Branch President, told that the short visit with Öcalan was a way to spread confusion among activists on hunger strike. According to Yoleri, the fact that Öcalan lives does not mean that he is not deprived of his rights.
Isolation is torture
Yoleri, who has worked for many years on prisons, especially F Type prisons, underlined the ongoing work against isolation. Indeed isolation, said Yoleri, has long been implemented in Turkey and is known in the world as a form of torture.
“Many researches – Yoleri said – confirmed that something needed to be done to eliminate this practice. As IHD, we have been demanding this before [the death fast of] 19 December and after. Because the only definition of isolation is torture.”
Yoleri added: “Today, when we look at rights in prison, we can easily say that the 10 hours socialisation right is either bad implemented or not sufficiently implemented. In many prisons this socialisation right is confined to 3 hours or 1 hour. The number of people brought together depends on the arbitrary attitude of each administration. One of the issues that should be underlined here is that isolation has an impact on the physical and mental health of prisoners. Isolation adversely affects people’s health. After entering the prison, people with no health problems or people with mild health problems, experience a quick deterioration in their health when subjected to isolation. They’re often even isolated from a human voice. The only sound they hear is often that of rude and insulting words.”
On the other hand, said Yoleri, “isolation deepens with disciplinary punishments. For example, receiving letters and visits are forbidden. We know that some prisoners have not been able to meet with their families for almost one year because of these disciplinary punishments. Turning to what we said at the beginning, this practice is a torture. Researches show that when a prisoner is meeting with less than 15 people, this indicate that he is in solitary confinement. Prisoners in Turkey jails are faced with sharing cells with two other inmates or alone, and the consequences of this isolation are as described above.”
In Imrali there is a special type of isolation
Yoleri continued her evaluation saying: “From 1999 in Imrali we saw a completely different rule being applied. In Imrali there are much more severe isolation practices and regulations. For this reason we say that what is applied in Imrali is a different legality all together. We have always said and continue to say that this isolation, which is also imposed upon the other three prisoners who were moved there, is a severe form of torture and must end immediately.”
Hunger strikers’ demands are a concern for the whole society
Yoleri underlined that the demand of HDP Hakkari MP Leyla Güven and all hunger strikers is a concern of the entire society.
“There is isolation in all prisons, – she said – but the hunger strike had one core demand and it was to end isolation in Imralı against Öcalan. There is a belief that isolation will end in other prisons if it is resolved in Imrali, and that is very true. Which is why there is an insistence on this point and an important part of the society has understood that.
The hunger strikes will continue if isolation in Imrali is not ended. This action is related to peace and democracy. Because if you ask to anyone in the street he or she will tell you that in Turkey there is no law and no justice. In fact, everyone says that there is no peace. Because if you want law and justice, you want peace.”
Yoleri added: “This is why the hunger strike may appear to be demanding a specific thing, while in reality it is demanding something which concerns the whole of society. This is not an action limited to Kurds or Öcalan. This is an action involving the needs of freedom, democracy and justice concerning all segments of society. It is very important to explain this to the whole of the society.
The first movements and actions were organised to counter denial and rejection of Kurds. Breaking this general perception is very important. As long as this general perception is not broken, society will be split in two. But this will not change the fact that the hunger strike covers the demands of the entire society.”
Isolation in Imrali goes on
IHD Istanbul Branch President Gülseren Yoleri stated that Öcalan’s visit with his brother showed that the state intends to confuse the society:
“I am of the opinion that the State has granted the visit to Mehmet Öcalan as a way to dissuade the hunger strikers. They said, ‘here you are, Öcalan has no health problem, so there is nothing more to question’. Yet there is one more thing that we have to tell society: the fact that a person is alive does not mean that a person lives a suitable life in dignity. Because human beings are human with their rights and freedoms.
We need to know that Öcalan is using the rights and freedoms that he possesses in order to accept that he is a human being. For this, talks with his lawyers, a healthy relationship with the outside world, talks with his family, and more are needed. Because like every prisoner, Öcalan also has rights and his isolation is aggravated whenever he cannot exercise his rights.”