Kurdish Protesters Stop London Traffic; Promote World Hunger Strike

Ground-level London commuters continue to struggle amidst the onslaught of recent protests that have subjugated the streets. Most notably, the Extinction Rebellion concluded today after two weeks of sporadic chaos.

Also today, the Kurdish occupation of the Amnesty International headquarters moved to occupy the street outside of the building, bringing public transportation to a standstill once again.

The pocket of protesters formed on 24 April, laying claim to the pavement in front of the Amnesty HQ on Rosebery Avenue. The protest aims to raise awareness for the recently initiated world hunger strike, undertaken in solidarity with Kurdish MP Leyla Güven, who has been fasting since 7 November 2018.

PKK supporters in London, April 2003

Güven, in turn, is striking in support of Abdullah Öcalan, founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Under Öcalan’s leadership, the PPK staged a slew of armed rebellions against the Turkish state, eventually culminating in his arrest and solitary confinement. He has been serving a life sentence in the Turkish prison Imrali since 1999, where he has published four books since his imprisonment.

A popular figure amongst the Kurdish people, the conditions of Öcalan’s incarceration are the underlying motivation behind the hunger strikes. The Nelson Mandela rules, obviously named for the famous Apartheid-era leader, restrict a government’s ability to keep prisoners in solitary confinement for extended periods of time. Since his arrest, Öcalan has had extremely limited contact with the outside world, and his lawyers have been prohibited from visiting him for 8 years.

Güven’s highly publicised hunger strike prompted a rash of similar strikes around the world. The UK chapter opened in December 2018, when Imam Sis initiated the strikes in Wales.

Amnesty International entered the fray when Kurdish protesters demanded a statement in support of the hunger strikers. On April 24th, they stormed the HQ and formally began their London protest.

Initially, the protest remained within the building and surrounding pavement. Protesters played Kurdish music, waved banners emblazoned with Öcalan’s face, and announced their goals via megaphones and microphones. Shortly after 19.00 on Friday, a group of approximately 30 protesters migrated to the street, obstructing traffic as they reiterated their purposes and goals.

Cars and cyclists turned back to Farringdon Road; however, buses were forced to stall for upwards of twenty minutes during the protest. Protesters handed out flyers detailing the hunger strikes, while a man kept a running dialogue on a megaphone.

“Time is running out for our friends… Tens of thousand of Kurdish people are incarcerated in Turkish prisons… Amnesty International have not said anything. They have been silent.”

As of Friday evening, the occupation remains ongoing.

Update: Shortly after midnight on Friday night, police entered the building and arrested protesters.