COSATU calls for the release of Kurdish leader – Abdullah Ocalan

The Congress of the South African Trade Unions (COSATU) join hands with all progressive movements, in support of the struggle for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan, after years of being detained indefinitely under horrific conditions including absolute isolation in Imrali Island Prison.

Ocalan is the symbolic leader of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which was and still is at the forefront of the struggle for freedom, liberation, and decolonization of the Kurdish people. His popularity and ideas posed a significant threat to the Turkish government which as a result, conspired and portrayed him as a dangerous terrorist together with other PKK members. In 1999, he was abducted on his way to meet Nelson Mandela and subsequently arrested. The rationale behind his capture was to weaken the PKK to a point where its struggle would wither away.

Ocalan has endured so much because of his political beliefs. In fact, his political life can be likened to that of Nelson Mandela. Speaking comparatively about life in prison, Essa Moosa, Nelson Mandela’s lawyer said, “the isolation of Ocalan is worse than that of Mandela”.

Speaking at a Kurdish Festival in Germany, Mandela said, “We know what it means to be oppressed in your own country. We know the pain of a mother whose child has disappeared. We know what it means to have your nationality and culture insulted”. Mandela’s words encapsulate historical similarities between South Africa under the apartheid regime and Kurdish under Turkish rule and the fight for equality, social justice, and peace. These ideals define COSATU’s internationalism and therefore place a moral obligation to COSATU to support the release of Ocalan and the overall struggle of the Kurdish people.

COSATU recognises that the demise of the Apartheid regime came about as a result of international solidarity. The entire world stood up for Mandela’s freedom through all forms of solidarity which eventually led to his release. It is in this regard that we call upon trade unions, governments, and progressive movements across the world to support, in one way or another, the “Free Ocalan” rally taking place on Thursday, July 16th, 2020.

We reiterate our demands to free Abdullah Ocalan so he may play his part in guaranteeing peace in Kurdistan, just as Nelson Mandela did here in South Africa. In the words of our iconic steward, Nelson Mandela to the Kurds – ‘I am part of the Kurdish struggle. I am one of you.’

Issued by COSATU

Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni (Cde)

COSATU International Secretary

Cosatu Head Office

Tel:  011 339 4911 | 072 535 1577