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Cosatu compares jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to ‘Nelson Mandela’ as it launches new campaign for his release

SOUTH Africa’s largest trade union confederation has launched a joint campaign today in support of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has written to United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres, urging him to press for the release of Mr Ocalan.

The letter highlighted the precedent set by the UN in calling for the release of Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years behind bars before his release in 1990.

The UN helped to establish the Nelson Mandela Rules which set out standards for the treatment of political prisoners, the letter notes.

Cosatu compared Mr Ocalan’s continued incarceration and Turkey’s brutal treatment of the Kurdish people to that of Mr Mandela and the apartheid system.

The confederation is calling on all progressives, trade unionists and others to join the campaign and write to the UN to demand Mr Ocalan’s freedom.

“Our campaign is directed at the UN, of which Turkey is also a member. We believe that a co-ordinated international solidarity campaign can create the impetus for the UN to act,” Cosatu said.

“Our key objective is to promote a just peace in Turkey and the region. President Erdogan’s authoritarian regime has in the last few years pursued an internal and external policy of expansionism and aggression,” it said in a joint statement with the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group in South Africa.

It warned that Mr Erdogan has undermined peace efforts in the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, and Europe, with Turkish troops and their jihadist allies fighting in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Cosatu insisted: “The freedom of Abdullah Ocalan as the legitimate representative of the Kurdish people is essential to pave the way for peace in Turkey and the region.”

Mr Mandela was involved in the fight against Kurdish oppression, saying in 1997: “I am part of the Kurdish struggle. I am one of you.”

He had assured Kurds: “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.”

His former lawyer Essa Moosa had said that the isolation of Mr Ocalan, who has been behind bars since 1999, was “worse than that of Mandela,” and his treatment has been described by human rights groups as a form of torture.

Any letters sent to Mr Guterres can also have the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group copied in: sakhrag@gmail.com

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