Skip to main content

Turkish human rights lawyer dies after hunger strike

Ebru Timtik died on the 238th day of her strike, which she launched to draw attention to what rights groups have described as an unfair trial.

A Turkish human rights lawyer serving a terrorism sentence in Istanbul has died after a seven-month hunger strike she launched to demand a fair trial. 

Ebru Timtik, 42, weighed just 30 kilograms (66 pounds) at the time of her death at an Istanbul hospital Thursday, her law office confirmed. The Kurdish lawyer was on the 238th day of a hunger strike she hoped would draw attention to her case. 

She and 17 other lawyers were convicted in March 2019 of ties to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a leftist militant group designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Lawyers groups said the court proceedings lacked credibility, noting that the judges who initially ordered the lawyers be released from pretrial detention were taken off the case, and that some witness identities were kept anonymous.  

Their appeal was rejected in October 2019, and Timtik was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison. In April, she and her colleague Aytac Unsal announced they would continue their strike even if it led to their deaths. They were forcibly hospitalized in late July. 

Timtik’s death drew condemnation from a host of rights groups, Turkish opposition parties and foreign officials. The human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe, which counts Turkey as a member, blasted the country’s judicial system as one that views lawyers as guilty by association with their clients. 

“Ms Timtik’s death is a tragic illustration of the human suffering caused by a judicial system in Turkey that has turned into a tool to silence lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists, through systematic disregard for the most basic principles of the rule of law,” Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement. 

Thousands of political prisoners are languishing in Turkish prisons on terrorism charges for alleged ties to various groups, including the banned Kurdistan Workers Party and the Fethullah Gulen movement, which the government blames for the failed coup attempt in 2016. This year, two imprisoned members of a defiant left-wing folk band who were also accused of ties to the DHKP/C died while on a hunger strike. 

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Turkey Briefing Turkey Briefing

Turkey Briefing

Top Turkey stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial