While the late human rights lawyer Judge Essa Moosa will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to the anti-Apartheid struggle, very few people know that the jurist had also focused his life’s work on the self-determination of the Kurdish people of Turkey. Tributes continue to stream in for the judge who passed away on Sunday – a man known to have spent his life in the service of humanity.
Known affectionately as the ‘people’s lawyer’, Judge Moosa had taken on the cases of many political activists, but later in life took on the task of fighting against the human rights abuse of numerous communities, in particular the Kurdish community.
With the arrest of the Kurdish nationalist leader, Abdullah Öcalan, the already lauded Judge began actively calling for the rights of Kurdish citizens living within the Turkish border and the diaspora, where Kurdish culture, language, and freedoms continue to be met with contention.
Judge Moosa and the late Imam Gasant Solomon subsequently founded the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group, also known as KHRAG, which to this day continues the struggle against the oppression of Kurdish peoples.
Vice-Chair of KHRAG, Reverend Matt Esau, who after meeting Judge Moosa some 30 years ago, when he worked as the personal assistant of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, shed light on the Judge’s role in fighting for the rights Kurdish people.
“Judge Moosa was instrumental in launching one of the biggest signature campaigns for any individual in the world, when he collected over 11 million signatures for the release of Abdullah Öcalan,” Esau noted.
The Judge continues to be a beloved figure within the Turkish Kurdish community for his work in fighting for the recognition for their human rights, his leadership igniting within the South African community an appreciation of the Kurdish plight.
In keeping with his life’s journey, Judge Moosa remained concerned about the state of South Africa and the plight of the Kurdish people until his death, a resounding fact that was reflected in the final days of his life.
Upon visiting Judge Moosa on Saturday, Esau says that after requesting him to render a pray, the Judge mentioned two key issues that concerned him.
“He believes that the social revolution in South Africa did not produce the kind of people we should be having and he was very concerned about the poor. He said we have to make sure that we feed the poor and make sure that all the [political] factions come together [so] that they are united in ensuring that the poor will have.”
“I want KHRAG to continue with its work, it must make sure that it brings South Africans together; to speak yes about we can do about the Kurdish situation, but also to make sure that we come together to heal our country – because there are so many divisions at the moment,” as relayed by Reverend Esau.
According to Esau, Judge Moosa had spoken to the deputy minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, who indicated that the department would present to the policy conference of the African National Congress a policy on the Kurdish People.
KHRAG secretary-general Mahmoud Patel say the judge’s management style within the organisation was one of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘non-dictatorial’.
As a stalwart of the anti-Apartheid struggle, he says that the judge’s grasp of jurisprudence provided him with a unique platform in his guidance of those he led.
“Judge’s knowledge was exemplary, insightful, and he had the ability to make you see the law as it should work… in that way he brought to light the spirit of the law for justice,” Patel elaborated.
He further notes that the icon of the struggle, despite his stature, was a man of humility and integrity, who provided KHRAG’s staff with a measure of comfort when working with him.
“At a personal level, he had this ability where he made you feel absolutely at ease when he worked with you, [since] you never looked at him as a person with such stature – that is the kind of specialness he had about him,” Patel stated.
A father figure to the Kurdish community
After meeting judge in 1997, Kurd and executive member of KHRAG, Baran Kalay, who speaks about both his professional and personal friendship the Judge, describes him as a Father figure in the Kurdish struggle for human rights.
Kalay says that Judge Moosa, through his work in KHRAG established himself as a leader for the fight against the oppression of the Kurdish people, whilst continuing to promote his life’s moto of respecting the call for peaceful discussion.
“One thing I learnt from judge is not to hate…always he believed in peace. Especially in the Kurdish [issue] he believed in peace, he never [showed] hatred for the opposition. Then I learnt from him [that] in a nation, [amongst] people, and in a family peace is always the winner.”
Esau explains that following his visit of Judge Moosa, he immediately called for a meeting with KHRAG’s executive members, which was hosted on Saturday, and pledged to continue the work of KHRAG within the guidelines that the judge has imparted to them.
“As we move forward, in his memory…we have made a pledge that we will move forward inspired and enriched by the leadership that he gave us.”
VOC 91.3fm (Thakira Desai)