On 2 September 2012, about sixty Kurds, an Iranic people native to Southwest Asia, that were in Turkish prisons began a hunger strike. These prisoners began this campaign out of a demand to free Mr. Abdullah Ocalan, one of the founding members of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a militant organization in Turkey. Mr. Ocalan was serving a life sentence and kept in solitary confinement in a prison on an island near Istanbul.
The Kurdish people are the most populous ethnicity without their own nation-state in the world. The governments of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria have repeatedly disenfranchised and murdered Kurds since the end of World War One, when the Kurds were promised, and later denied, self-rule. In Turkey, where Kurds constitute 20% of the population, the ethnic Turk-dominated government long denied the existence of a Kurdish minority and has pursued an assimilationist agenda designed to quash Kurdish culture.