Despite her release, Turkish parliamentarian for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Leyla Güven, has continued her hunger strike since December 16th demanding an end to the isolation in prison of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. Politicians said Güven's release was due to the Turkish government’s fear of her health deteriorating.
Güven, 55, was imprisoned in January 2018 for criticising Turkey's military operation in Afrin, a Kurdish majority town in northern Syria. She was convicted of "belonging [to] and leading an armed organization, terrorism, and inciting people to hate", the same charges faced by HPD leaders detained in Turkish prisons.
A Turkish court decided to release Güven after her 79-day hunger strike in protest at the harsh isolation regime imposed on Abdullah Öcalan.
"My client is no longer able to fight diseases, and her lean body is unable to protect itself against disease," said Serdar Celebi, a lawyer for MP Güven.
The HDP leader Barakat Karr said in a statement to 7Dnews that "release of Leyla Güven came out of fear of a solidarity widening that began to take on an international character. There were demonstrations in Afghanistan and many European countries, and solidarity by female deputies in the Lebanese parliament."
"Instead of her death in prison as the regime's responsibility, they preferred her to be under the responsibility of HPD or her family,” Karr said.
Karr said that "authority knows very well that Leyla did not strike for her release, but to break the isolation imposed on Öcalan," noting that "the goal of her release is to marginalize the case and cut the road to solidarity, which has begun to expand inside Turkey and abroad, but Güven’s insistence will defeat this policy."
Opposition journalist Seyyit Evran said in an interview with 7Dnews, "Leyla Güven is a Kurdish woman from Konya, a mother of a boy and a girl, who left Europe and returned to Turkey as a political activist. She is a member of parliament for the Peoples' Democratic Party, and co-chairs the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), an association of representatives from civil society organisations, political parties, lawyers, and human rights defenders."
He added that Güven and her comrades “are convinced that Turkey, the Kurds and the region need Öcalan’s ideas, but he has been isolated by the Turkish state for seven years, despite objections of the international community. The authorities prevent his lawyers, comrades, journalists, international organisations, and even his family from visiting him, which is contrary to the most basic rights of prisoner."
Evran stressed that the Justice and Development Party government, which refused to reach an agreement to resolve the Kurdish issue, has taken over the municipalities and begun to arrest the people’s elected representatives, which has contributed to deepening the crisis and war in the country.
On the situation of politicians in Turkish prisons, he said that over "three years, 11 deputies from the Peoples' Democratic Party and the two co-leaders were arrested, in addition to the arrest and dismissal of more than 100 mayors and about 10,000 members of HDP in Turkish prisons."
Evran said that "Turkey is a prison for Kurds and every citizen who recognises the rights of Kurds... What is happening in Turkey is a terrible thing,"
Güven expressed a similar sentiment in a message addressed to the women of the world who are in solidarity with her:
I have been in prison for about one year. A prisoner has nothing but their own body. So, I started this hunger strike. Now, along with me, in the prisons around the country, 230 friends, fellow political prisoners, have started an indefinite-irreversible hunger strike. Hannah Arendt has a beautiful quote: ‘Freedom means action. Because freedom can only be attained through action. Action drives the movement that resonates amongst the people.’
The demands of my action are legitimate and rightful. If our demands are not met, hundreds of people can lose their lives. If this happens in the 21st century, it will not only be the shame of Turkey but a shame for all of humanity. For the world not to be faced with such a shame, the women of the world need to do whatever they can. And without losing any more time. We will continue to resist. Resistance will help us win. Our belief in this is infinite. In this respect – I call you all to resist.
What is happening in Turkey is a setback for human rights and the rule of law, it lacks checks and balances to curb abuses by the executive branch, severely curtails the parliament powers, and entrenches the president's authority over most judicial appointments. The full implementation of the presidential system will begin after the 2019 elections, then Turkey will turn into a big prison.
In its 2019 Global Report, Human Rights Watch said that lifting the state of emergency in Turkey did not put an end to the repressive rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Prolonged and arbitrary imprisonment on fabricated terrorism charges has become the norm in Turkey.
Human Rights Watch said Turkish courts lacked independence, and so did not respond to the government's imprisonment of critics or opponents, and also tolerated sham trials on terrorism charges.
"The government has challenged a ruling by the European Court to release opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been arbitrarily detained for more than two years, with former parliamentarians and elected mayors of pro-Kurdish parties. With local elections scheduled for March 2019 approaching, local democracy remains suspended in the south-east of the country. The government controls 94 municipalities in the region after deposing representatives elected by the Kurdish population," reported Human Rights Watch.