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Imam Sis hunger strike successful

BASW Cymru joined organisations across the globe to support the activist

Imam Sis, the Newport based Kurdish activist, has completed a successful hunger strike after his struggles echoed all of the way to Parliament, directly influencing the Turkish government to allow visitation by Abdullah Öcalan’s legal team. Öcalan called on his supporters to end their reported 3,000 hunger strikes around the world.

BASW Cymru, alongside a number of Welsh organisations, supported Imam Sis through his 161 day hunger strike, which led to a dangerous decline in his health and a staggering 25kg (55lb) weight loss.

National Director, Allison Hulmes said “BASW Cymru has been proud to have played a small part, in keeping the issues of the Kurdish hunger strikers in the public domain. Anyone who met Imam, as I have, could not fail to be moved by his courage, dignity and steadfast belief in human rights. I am glad that he will now have the opportunity to recover and continue his struggle to secure the release of Ocalan”

Speaking on the end of his hunger strike, Imam Sis said: “I would like to thank the Welsh Senedd, which was the first parliament in the world to give full support to the hunger strikers.

“Also to Plaid Cymru Assembly Members Delyth Jewell, Leanne Wood and Bethan Sayed, and party leader, Adam Price, for all their support.”

Abdullah Öcalan , the co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has been imprisoned since 1998 and had been denied legal counsel since 2011, before the brave efforts of Imam Sis and other Kurdish activists led to legal representatives being allowed to visit him.

Abdullah Öcalan, in a statement given through his lawyers, said: “Comrades who have committed themselves to hunger strikes and death fasts, I expect you to end your protest,"

John McGowan, General Secretary of SWU spoke at the recent General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) Conference, where the Kurds were a major topic. At the conference Kurdish Activist, Osman Baydemir also spoke emotionally, despite limited English, on the plight of the Kurds in Turkey.

Osman is a Turkish politician, lawyer and human rights activist of Kurdish descent. He is currently exiled from his home in Turkey for being Kurdish - a mayor of his home-town, a human rights lawyer and a HDP MP facing “trumped up charges just because he is Kurdish.”

Mcgowan highlighted that “SWU in their wider role as part of the GFTU have continued to keep the matter on the trade union agenda”. The GFTU were represented at a recent trip to Kurdistan and through continued campaigning with union colleagues.

“It is the wider view of the trade union movement that Öcalan will have to be released for there to be lasting democratic settlement between Turkey and its Kurdish minority which respects their rights as currently their children are even denied learning their mother tongue in schools.”

The fight is still not over for Imam Sis, just as it continues for many Kurds around the world. The Kurdish activist said: "ending the hunger strike, does not mean the end of the struggle against isolation. In fact - he added - we will continue to struggle in other forms to ensure isolation is definitively brought to an end".