ISTANBUL (ANP) – The Dutch Europarliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten caused controversy during her visit to Turkey. During a meeting she said that hunger strikes have no place in democracies. Some people couldn’t swallow that. An MP for the pro-Kurdish BDP party tweeted angrily on Saturday morning about Oomen-Ruijten: ‘Apparently Ruijten thinks Turkey is a democracy’.
Oomen-Ruijten made her statement on Friday during a meeting of the German Marshall Fund in the Turkish capital Ankara. She is visiting Turkey in her role as Turkey rapporteur for the EU. In several Turkish prisons some 700 Kurdish inmates are on hunger strike, some of them already for the 67th day.
Oomen-Ruijten to ANP news agency: ‘The hunger strike tool isn’t suitable for a democracy. When you want attention for a subject, there are other ways, for example via politics. You cannot just hold a hunger strike to quickly enforce something.’
The demands of the hunger strikers are the right to use Kurdish in education and in court, and an end to the isolation of PKK leader Öcalan, who has not been able to meet with his lawyers and family for over a year now. Oomen-Ruijten: ‘There is a bill in parliament to allow Kurdish in courts. The acceptance of Kurdish education is being rolled out, as I understand. The last demand, related to Öcalan, well, the Turkish government won’t give in to that. He is leading a terrorist organisation, we agree on that in Europe. No, there should be no negotiations with the PKK.’
The Kurdish MP Hasip Kaplan tweeted angrily about his European-Dutch colleague: ‘Apparently Ruijten thinks that Turkey, which still has a constitution written by military leaders, is a democracy. In Turkey, even the smallest expression of democracy is reacted against by the police with tear gas, and anyone who doesn’t see that, shares responsibility for it.’
Kaplan claims Europe is too tolerant towards Turkey, and that Turkey became ‘naughty’ because of that, in other words, no longer democratizes. Oomen-Ruijten tells ANP news agency she doesn’t agree Turkey is not a democracy: ‘Turkey is a democracy with flaws, just like so many democracies in Europe.’