Feature Article

Mandela and the other Prisoners of War

[TamilNet, Monday, 09 December 2013, 11:56 GMT]
As South Africa prepares for the funeral of iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away at the age of 95 on Thursday, leaders of the world have paid their tributes to the man who was incarcerated as a political prisoner under the apartheid regime for 27 years. Powerful countries in the West, including the USA and UK, which had once denounced Mandela as a ‘terrorist’, are now in the forefront paying homage. However, these establishments still continue to support countries that practice illegal detention and brutal treatment of prisoners-of-war (PoW). Noting this hypocrisy, a British-Kurdish activist, drawing a comparison between Mandela and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who has been kept in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison for 13 years, questions how one political leader is considered a “freedom fighter” and the other a “terrorist”.

Handwritten note from Mandela
Handwritten note from a court statement by Mandela: “It is an ideal for which I have lived. It is an ideal for which I still hope to live and see realised. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (Photo courtesy: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/multimedia/mandela/7.html)

Ruwayda Mustafah, a Kurdish writer and activist based in the UK, writing in the site Kurdishvoices.com on 6 December, argues “Abdullah Ocalan, similar to Nelson Mandela has renounced violence, continuously called for dialogue, peace, diplomacy and understanding between Kurdish people and the Turkish state.”

“He has played an instrumental role in supporting the peace-process in Turkey, although little credit has been attributed to him within the Turkish media in his role as a peace-mediator.”

“When people mourn Nelson Mandela, his legendary work, and praise his strength, I wonder, do they do the same for Abdullah Ocalan? What I don’t understand is, how is it that we have come to accept the imprisonment of Abdullah Ocalan as “justifiable” but not that of Nelson Mandela?

“Surely, if Mandela’s imprisonment was unwarranted (and no doubt it was) then the same line of reasoning/logic can be applied to Ocalan.”

Currently, Turkey is a strategic partner of the USA.

That these establishments that talk about human rights abuses alone but fail to challenge Sri Lanka over the question of hundreds of LTTE cadres who continue to remain PoWs without any sort of legal aid and are being subject to routine abuse should be no surprise.

While the Mandela that the establishments promote is the architect of ‘reconciliation’ – and this Mandela is acceptable by Sinhala leaders including those like Ranil Wickremesinghe to justify the fundamentally flawed LLRC recommendations and the unitary state of Sri Lanka – the other Mandela they would like to obfuscate would be the uncompromising fighter against structural racism.

However, Mandela fought in a completely different context. Apartheid South Africa was a racist state privileging the minority whites over the majority blacks, practicing structural discrimination against the latter.

Whereas Sri Lanka is a genocidal state that seeks the annihilation of the Eezham Tamil nation through structural genocide.

Tamil activists perceive that Mandela’s relevance to the Tamils lies more in the zeal with which he pursued his political goals strategically.

They join the world community in remembering the iconic leader.


Latest 15 Reports
Find this article at: