Kurdish Mayor on hunger strike against wall on Syrian border


Ayse Gokkan at border protesting against the construction of a divisive wall.

The mayor of Nusaybin district, Ayse Gokkan has been protesting against the construction of a wall at the Turkish-Syrian border between the two cities of Qamishli and Nusaybin. The wall has been dubbed as a “wall of shame” a phrase which the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly used against the Israeli government’s wall between the Gaza strip and Israel.

Nusaybin (Nisêbîn in Kurdish) is a Kurdish city within the Mardin province in Turkey. On the other side, Qamishli (Qamişlo in Kurdish) is a Kurdish city in northeastern Syria, and is among the 10 largest cities within Syria by population. The international borders between Syria and Turkey divided these two cities, which were once collectively known as Nisibis.

Ayse Gokkan has explained that the building of this wall has symbolic significance for Kurdish people, and it is a means of dividing Kurdish people. She said, “If need be, I will tear down that wall with my hands, at the risk of my life”. On Time, she is quoted to have said, “We are like a town separated by a fence”.

Despite her hunger strike at the site where the building of a wall is underway, media agencies have done little to highlight Kurdish grievances, and their concerns. Consequently, the Turkish government has remained overtly silent over its long term intentions in the construction of this wall, and Gokkan has vocalised the necessity of clarity over this issue.

Throughout last Friday, shops were closed in support of Gokkan’s hunger strike in Mardin’s Nusaybin district. According to a medical team that examined Gokkan, her health has been detoriated and despite their pleas for her to be hospitalised, she has vowed to continue her hunger strike, and is currently on her 5th day of hunger strike.

Hundreds who came out in support of Gokkan in the border area of Nusaybin district were dispersed by police through water canons, tear gas on Friday afternoon. The mayor of Diyarbakir Osman Baydemir has called on the Kurdish people to go to the Nusaybin area on the 7th of November peacefully to demand equality, freedom and peace.