Nel­son Man­dela’s virtues of peace, strug­gle and for­give­ness in the Kur­dish ques­tion

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

“Courageous peo­ple do not fear for­giv­ing, for the sake of peace” – Nel­son Man­dela

Nel­son Man­dela, who died at the age of 95, will for­ever re­main an icon of jus­tice, peace, pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance. His life was a jour­ney against the odds un­der­lined by de­ter­mi­na­tion, be­lief and pas­sion for the cause. In a re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion, Man­dela went from im­pris­oned ac­tivist of 27 years, 18 years of those years in the harsh con­fine­ment of Robben Is­land, to free­dom in 1990 and just 4 years later as South Africa’s first black pres­i­dent in the coun­try’s first multi-racial fully rep­re­sen­ta­tive demo­cratic elec­tions.

Man­dela’s pri­mary strug­gle was against the apartheid sys­tem of the all-white Na­tional Party of South Africa that op­pressed the black pop­u­la­tion and whose poli­cies “sep­a­rated” the black and white so­ci­eties en­sur­ing con­trast­ing lives and con­di­tions.

The case and strug­gle of Man­dela is cer­tainly true for the Kurds. Whether dis­crim­i­na­tion is on racial, re­li­gion or eth­nic ground, the end prod­uct and crimes are no dif­fer­ent.

As the old say­ing goes “one man’s ter­ror­ist is another man’s free­dom fighter”. Man­dela may have been de­spised by the white regime as a “com­mu­nist” or “ter­ror­ist” but for thou­sands more he was a true rev­o­lu­tion­ary and a sym­bol of sac­ri­fice, brav­ery and de­ter­mi­na­tion. Man­dela was a true ad­vo­cate of peace but he was not afraid to use other means when peace­ful pleas went unan­swered and when op­pres­sion against the blacks con­tin­ued.

Much in the same way as the blacks in South Africa, the Kurds have suf­fered op­pres­sion at the hands of their rulers, of­ten with a sec­ond-class la­bel in their lands of fore­fa­thers. The Kurds did not de­sire vi­o­lence to achieve their means but would the Kurds in Iraq and Tur­key re­ally be where they are to­day with­out the great strug­gle of their lead­ers and peo­ple?

There was uproar in many a Turk­ish cir­cle when the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment turned to im­pris­oned PKK leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan as a key in­ter­locu­tor of the peace process.

But as Man­dela put so wisely - “if you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he be­comes your part­ner."

When Man­dela be­came pres­i­dent, in spite of his harsh or­deal, he ad­vo­cated rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, for­give­ness and em­ployed a lack of bit­ter­ness or ha­tred.

In Tur­key, the Kurds and Turks can truly turn a new page by em­brac­ing the same ideals of for­give­ness and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and sway­ing away from ha­tred or an­i­mos­ity. As Man­dela put so well him­self, "courageous peo­ple do not fear for­giv­ing, for the sake of peace."

A look at Tur­keys past needs a bal­anced ap­proach. Killings of Turks or Kurds are as tragic as each other. Is a mourn­ing Turk­ish mother any dif­fer­ent to a mourn­ing Kur­dish mother?

There can never be rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in Tur­key with­out re­flect­ing on the past. Man­dela did not op­press those who did wrong against him or side-line them from his gov­ern­ment – af­ter all, that would make him no bet­ter than the per­pe­tra­tor of crimes against him but he cre­ated the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate past hu­man rights abuses and to en­sure the past is not merely swept un­der the rugs of his­tory but is pur­posely tak­ing for­ward to build a bet­ter fu­ture.

In De­cem­ber 1993, in a sym­bolic mo­ment both Man­dela and Fred­erik Willem de Klerk, the leader of the Na­tional Party at the time, were awarded the No­bel Peace Prize. It high­lighted that when it comes to peace, there should be no hero or vil­lain or bit­ter taste.

Whether it is Nel­son Man­dela, Mas­saud Barzani or Ab­dul­lah Ocalan, they have all strug­gled for their peo­ple.

Man­dela him­self was acutely aware of the Kur­dish strug­gle. In 1992, he re­fused the Atatürk Peace Award cit­ing hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, be­fore later ac­cept­ing the award in 1999.

In April 2009, Essa Moosa, the lawyer of Man­dela on an of­fi­cial visit to Tur­key, de­nounced the crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of the Kur­dish strug­gle for free­dom, liken­ing Ocalan’s strug­gle for the Kurds to that of Man­dela.

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