THE much-anticipated announcement of the end of hunger strikes by Kurdish political prisoners came at 11am our time yesterday in a statement on their behalf from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and PAJK (Party of Free Women of Kurdistan). It was followed by a statement from the hunger-striking HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) MPs, in which MP Tayyip Temel quoted a few simple words from Leyla Guven, who began the protest from prison on November 7. She said: “We believed and we succeeded.”

The hunger strikers had one simple demand: that the Turkish Government comply with its own constitution and international conventions on human rights and end the isolation of imprisoned Kurdish leader and PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, allowing him regular access to his family and his lawyers.

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Millions of Kurds recognise Ocalan as their leader but you don’t have to be Kurdish to see the huge impact of his ideas in bringing an empowering grassroots democracy to northern Syria, building bridges between different ethnic groups and – especially – ensuring women can take a full part in society.

In the past two decades he has made repeated attempts to negotiate a peaceful and respectful future for the Kurds in Turkey, and the respect he commands makes his role vital to any peace settlement. There is an international call for Ocalan’s freedom, although hunger strikers limited themselves to demanding an end to his isolation, recognised in law as a form of torture.

Guven, a Kurdish MP and then political prisoner in Turkey, was on her 200th day without food. The 14 in Strasbourg and Imam Sis in Wales were on day 161. By the end, there were more than 7000 people on indefinite hunger strike in Turkish jails and across the world, and 30 prisoners on death fast, who were taking only water and refusing the minimum of vitamins and small amounts of salt and sugar taken by the other hunger strikers.

The National: Welsh hunger striker Imam Sis will be assessed in hospital after going without food for a total of 161 daysWelsh hunger striker Imam Sis will be assessed in hospital after going without food for a total of 161 days

Ocalan met his lawyers on May 2 but it was only after a second visit last week that hopes were raised that contact would continue, and Ocalan conveyed a clear call for the end of the strike and a continuation of the struggle by political means.

His lawyers said: “During the meeting, Ocalan insisted on his call for the termination of hunger strikes and death-fasts, which have achieved their goals. After this call, we believe that strikers will terminate the action.

“Our client stated that if talks were not held in the future, it could be protested by a political struggle, but actions such as hunger strikes and death-fasts should be avoided. He stated that the main thing is a culture of democratic political struggle and that it is more important for the strikers to be physically, spiritually and mentally healthy.”

The lawyers met hunger strikers to get their united agreement to end their strike action. Activists around the world have been checking their phones every few minutes in recent days.

Of course, we can only guess at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s thinking, but even in a world where politics has little time for morality, insistence on denying human rights is not good diplomacy. Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and earlier this month (between the visits from Ocalan’s lawyers) the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture was finally persuaded to re-visit Ocalan in his island prison.

I don’t suppose we will ever know what part our campaigns and letters and petitions may have played in this. There is also no doubt that the forthcoming rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election weighs heavily on Erdogan’s mind. In the local elections at the end of March, the candidate for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) narrowly lost out to the man from the main opposition, with Kurdish tactical voting playing a crucial role. However, under intense AKP pressure, the electoral authorities declared the election compromised, and a rerun will take place on June 23. When a small swing can make a big difference, Erdogan may have calculated that dying hunger strikers would not help the AKP’s image.

Although it’s been suggested Erdogan is hoping for Kurdish electoral support, this would be a negation of everything the Kurds have been struggling for. And this one concession has not been matched by any let up in anti-Kurdish brutality elsewhere.

Protests in support of the hunger strikers – especially those by prisoners’ mothers – have been met by police batons and arrests. Turkey has also increasingly shown its intention to incorporate Afrin, the autonomous predominantly Kurdish region in Northern Syria it invaded last year, into its own territory.

It has encircled Afrin with a border wall and is replacing Kurdish families with Arabs, including members of Jihadist gangs. Meanwhile, Turkish attacks on neighbouring Kurdish areas fuel fears of further invasion. And, of course, the great majority of the more than 7000 people on hunger strike are still political prisoners in Turkey’s jails.

So, as we celebrate this victory – at a time when any victory for progressive forces is a rarity – we need to be aware of how fragile it is. It can unlock a door to change, but that door will only open if pressure is kept up and increased. Despite a shocking lack of mainstream coverage, this massive action has mobilised Kurds everywhere and raised wider awareness of the Kurdish cause, especially coinciding as it has with the Kurdish-led victory over Daesh in Syria. More and more people have learned the Kurds are not only the most effective force against Daesh but that the Kurdish movement, led by Ocalan, also stands for grass-roots democracy, women’s rights, multiculturalism and ecology – and that the Turkish Government is the enemy of the progress the Kurds would bring not only to Turkey and Syria but to the wider region and beyond.

All of us who were moved by the hunger strike will now need to campaign harder to ensure that Turkey doesn’t backtrack on any assurances given, as it has done so often before, and that this opportunity to build wider support for the progressive Kurdish movement is not wasted. We, and especially those MPs and MSPs and trade unions who have publicly shown their support, can keep up the pressure on Turkey via the Council of Europe and the UK Foreign Office. And all of us can raise wider awareness of what is happening.

A hunger strike is an action of last resort, only taken when the world refuses to listen, but the message has been made impossible to ignore. We have begun to hear it in our parliaments, in our news media, in our trade unions, in our universities and on our streets. We are today celebrating the successful action of the most principled, dedicated and unselfish people you could ever meet. Now it’s our turn to act.

Sarah Glynn’s full blog on the end of the hunger strikes is on the Scottish Solidarity With Kurdistan website,