Leyla Güven, an imprisoned MP for the pro-Kurdish HDP Party in Turkey, has been on hunger strike for the last 69 days. Leyla has been on hunger strike in a Turkish prison against her unjust detention since 8 November and is now in a critical condition. She faces over 31 years in prison for simply being critical of the Turkish regime, after she rightly condemned the Turkish invasion of Afrin and other human rights abuses. Over 260 Kurdish political prisoners have now joined her on hunger strike in Turkish jails. They are calling for her release and for an end to the isolation of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. We know that prisoners on hunger strike have been attacked in their cells. Cell confinements and harsh disciplinary punishments are worsening the situation in the jails.
As Leyla's condition is now deteriorating it is imperative that the international community acts to save her life. Will the Minister of State urgently raise this case with his Turkish counterpart and the Turkish authorities? Last weekend, Sinn Féin's MEP for the North, Martina Anderson, travelled to Turkey and met with Leyla's daughter and her lawyers to extend our solidarity and discuss her condition. Along with other international observers, she attempted to visit Leyla in jail. They were denied entry to the prison by the Turkish authorities and there were tense scenes outside the prison after the were refused entry. They witnessed at first hand the tactics of the heavily armed Turkish police when they visited the headquarters of the HDP Party and saw lines of police in riot gear when they left the building.
It is clear that ending the illegal policy of prison isolation is key to advancing the peace process. The solitary confinement of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan and other political prisoners is a gross violation of their human rights. Any form of isolation or solitary confinement is strictly prohibited under the United Nations minimum rules of the treatment of prisoners, also known as the Mandela rules, which were adopted by the UN in May 2015. What is happening to this prisoner is wrong and he is a key to unlocking the conflict between the Kurds and Turkey.
Our own history has many examples of hunger striking prisoners. We are remembering the centenary of An Chéad Dáil this month and one of the Deputies elected to that historic assembly was Terence MacSwiney, who later became mayor of Cork and who died on hunger strike in 1920. I remember vividly Bobby Sands, MP, and Deputy Kieran Doherty dying on hunger strike in 1981.
At this critical time for Leyla Güven I urge the Minister of State to raise the circumstances surrounding her arrest and imprisonment urgently with the Turkish Government and join the international action to try to save her life. It is crucial. After 69 days on hunger strike, the woman is at a critical phase. We need to raise our voice. She is facing a long prison sentence merely for going on social media to raise the issue of the illegal invasion of Afrin and other legitimate points of view in respect of the situation in Turkey and the impact it is having on the Kurdish people. The Irish Government needs to raise its voice and condemn what is happening in Turkey and particularly to this woman.