Towards Democratic Solution From Armed Conflict – The Role Played By Leaders On Peaceful Solutions: South African And Kurdish Experiences – Mandela And Ocalan

by Judge Essa Moosa, director of the International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative and chairperson for KHRAG.

A new dawn has appeared on the horizon of Turkish political landscape. For the first time in almost 100 years the Kurdish issue in Turkey are being seriously addressed. The struggle of the Kurdish people in Turkey to enforce their legitimate claim to self-determination in terms of the Sevres Treaty was met with force, execution, imprisonment, banishment, persecution and repression. Such right to self-determination was approved by the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations[1]. The South African people of colour have also struggled, for more than 100 years, for their right to self-determination and achieved their right on 10 May 1994 with the installation of a government of national unity under the presidency of Nelson Mandela.[2] There are striking similarities between the struggle of the Kurdish people in Turkey for their right to self-determination and the right to self-determination of the oppressed people in South Africa.

Both Turkey and South Africa were colonised and subjugated by various colonial powers over the ages.  Turkey was colonised by the Persians, Mongolians, British, French and the Russians.  South Africa was colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. The political and constitutional evolution of Turkey and South Africa, with the passage of time, is somewhat similar.  South Africa, as it is presently constituted, was formed in 1910 when the imperial power of Britain granted to the white population of the country a measure of self-rule on the basis of white supremacy.[3] In 1921 Turkey promulgated its first Constitution in line with the provisions of the Sevres Treaty, following the demise of the Ottoman Empire.  In 1924, Turkey adopted a Republican Constitution on the basis of Turkish hegemony. The Constitution violated the provisions of the Sevres Treaty which granted the Kurdish people in Turkey, a measure of autonomy where there is a preponderance of Kurdish people and independence after a year if the majority of the people in those regions wish to become independent of Turkey.[4]

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