Activists from the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group came together for an information session in the city on Thursday, aimed at discussing the politicials situation in Kurdistan, Iraq, and Syria. Kurdish Human Rights Action Group chairperson Judge Essa Moosa expressed the hope that the Kurdish freedom fighter Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), would be released from prison soon. He says that South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and Abdulla Ocalan have similarities.
Essop gave VOC News a brief journey of Ocalan, sharing the striking similarities with Madiba.
“They asked if it is possible for Abullah to get political asylum in South Africa. We then organized with the Mandela government at the time, that provided he can put his foot on South African soil he will get political asylum,” said Judge Essop.
Ocalan’s organisation PKK was banned in Turkey and also banned in other parts of the Middles East, Lebanon and Syria. He fled to Europe but only to be persecuted there too. Eventually his group sought help and came to South Africa in 1997 and asked if Ocalan could find political asylum in South Africa.
In 1999 on his journey from Europe to South Africa, he stopped over in Kenya and this is where Western intelligence agencies captured, kidnapped and handed him over to the Turkish government. He was charged for treason which was later commuted to life imprisonment. The place that he is imprisoned bares a stark similarity to Robben Island.
“Turkey charged him for treason, sentenced to death which was later commuted to life imprisonment…he is now in prison on an island for 14 years,” said Judge Moosa.
Ocalan’s leadership is said to be like Madiba’s as they both were charged with treason for the same cause, imprisoned on an island and both their organisations were regarded as “terrorist” organisations. Ocalan has also tried to initiate talks with the Turkish government through dialogue just like Madiba during the nationalist apartheid government.
“Both ANC and PKK were known to be terrorist organisations. Both Mandela and Ocalan initiated talks with government. They have now suspended the armed struggle in Turkey and he is now talking to solve the problem with the Kurdish struggle.”
For now the hopes for Judge Moosa is that Ocalan can see freedom in his lifetime – the freedom that Mandela has seen.
“When I was still a student I used to attend political meetings on the Grand parade ….one of the slogans of the ANC was freedom during my lifetime. I am absolutely confident that Abdulla Ocalan will be released and his organization will be unbanned and that there will be peace in Turkey arising from dialogue and eventual solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey.” VOC (Nishta Sookdiyal)