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1000s join rally in Turkey in solidarity with detained Kurdish lawmaker

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protesters flash the V sign for victory during a rally in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, January 19 , 2019. (AFP)

Thousands of people have taken part in a rally in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey to express solidarity with a detained lawmaker from a pro-Kurdish party who launched a hunger strike in November.

Leyla Guven, a member of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), is protesting against the prison conditions of Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Guven, 55, launched a hunger strike on November 8 to pressure the Turkish government into allowing lawyers and family members to visit Ocalan.

Waving flags of the HDP, the demonstrators on Saturday flashed victory signs in support of Guven, whose condition her party describes as "life threatening" as her hunger strike entered its 66th day.

"It is our duty to add our voices to that of Leyla's," HDP's co-president Pervin Buldan told the crowd.

Guven's action was supported by more than 150 prisoners across Turkey in a show of solidarity.

Protesters gather under a banner reading, "Leyla Guven is right," during a rally in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, on January 19 , 2019, in support of the jailed lawmaker who has been on hunger strike for more than two months.(AFP)

She was arrested in January 2018 for her opposition to Turkey's military operation against Syrian Kurdish militants of the People's Protection Units (YPG) that are considered by Ankara an offshoot of the PKK.

Ocalan has been serving a life sentence for treason in an island prison near Istanbul since his capture in 1999.

Turkey, along with the European Union and the United States, has declared the PKK a terrorist group and banned it. The militant group has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984.

A shaky ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Attacks on Turkish security forces have soared ever since.

Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed during the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the autonomy-seeking militant group.

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