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MAXINE PEAKE and trade union leaders demanded freedom for imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and for solidarity with hundreds of hunger strikers across Turkey today.
The award-winning actor spoke at length about her experience on a recent delegation to Turkey at a London press conference.
Bringing attention to the plight of the left-wing MP Leyla Guven, who has been on hunger strike since November, Ms Peake said that it was “inspiring but harrowing” to meet Ms Guyven, who was “so ill but so full of life and determination.
“It is shocking that a member of parliament could be on hunger strike and it is not international news.”
She added that “the global community” is behind Mr Ocalan, the figurehead of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and urged the British labour movement to “make Ocalan’s plight as important and as all-encompassing as Nelson Mandela’s.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said that Ocalan’s imprisonment means the continuation of war, and that “no lasting peace can be secured while he is imprisoned.
“It’s time to end his isolation, and for Erdogan to comply with Turkey’s own law and international obligations.”
Veteran labour lawyer Paul Scholey drew attention to the Turkish government’s “conflation of trade unionism with terrorism,” with unions being regularly described as “godless communists” in state media.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke agreed, criticising the Turkish government’s “astonishing” treatment of Mr Ocalan.
He also drew attention to the repression of Turkish trade unionists, accusing the Ankara regime of “colluding to break the trade union movement” by sponsoring “yellow unions” to crush legitimate workers’ representation.
Mr Cortes added how in the past year, workers building Istanbul’s new airport had been jailed without trial for protesting the deaths of 50 on-site fatalities on the space of one month.
“They were jailed without trial, spent several months inside, and were then dismissed,” he said.
“That tells you the level of repression that exists towards those who dare to stand out against Erdogan.”
There are currently 313 hunger strikers in Turkish jails demanding that the Turkish government’s 20-year imposition of isolation on Mr Ocalan is lifted.
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