From the Morality of Living to the Morality of Dying: Hunger Strikes in Turkish Prisons

Gürcan Koçan, Ahmet Öncü
2006 Citizenship Studies  
Political hunger strikes have been part of the debates on human rights in many countries around the world. This paper explores the preconditions for and motives behind hunger strikes in Turkey by conceiving the hunger strikers as a part of citizenship politics through which strikers not only express their views against certain common issues, but also declare total opposition to an unjust condition within their political community. The paper focuses on the question of why some such "citizens"
more » ... ose to participate in hunger strikes, which appears as an individual commitment to achieve a certain common objective. In doing so, the meaning of the experiences of hunger strikers and their universal right to live are elaborated in relation to their political and moral views. Hunger strikes are suggested to be seen as voluntary fasting, undertaken as a means of civil disobedience against an injustice within the context of citizenship. As examples of non-violent political acts, hunger strikes are not only part of citizenship politics but also expressions of commitment to achieving one's goals through non-aggressive means for the common good of all citizens. Moreover, they can also be considered examples of martyrdom/heroism because hunger strikers altruistically risk their life for a public cause. As a particular altruistic act, hunger strikes can also be viewed as an effective form of communication directed toward fellow citizens. Moreover, they are expressions of self-determination for having control over and for one's own life conditions. Finally, hunger strikes can be conceptualized as a struggle for transforming the configuration of structures and practices of citizenship about which one is passionately concerned. In this context, hunger strikes seem to be struggles for recognition in a relationship between two subjects, in which one subordinates the other. Hunger strikes, such as those by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Bobby Sand in Ireland, have sometimes been used in different places around the world as a non-violent means to express resistance and to encourage a change in public policy. Both Gandhi and Sand attempted to use non-violent expression to bring about a change in their respective political environments. Gandhi's approach to the use of hunger strikes rested on an understanding that it is one of the "mightiest" forms of civil disobedience, which both attracts attention and garners respect. Nevertheless, the hunger strike by Bobby Sand and
doi:10.1080/13621020600772115 fatcat:wm55ji4gcnhh5f5ec25xytz7fi