Similar experiences to the Kurdish issue: the cases of South Africa, Cambodia and Sudan

Similar experiences to the Kurdish issue: the cases of South Africa, Cambodia and Sudan
A+ A-
The main focus of the "Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding" workshop in Diyarbakir was the similarities with other countries.

REMZI BUDANCIR- The Diyarbakir Institute for Political and Social Research (DISA) organized a workshop on "Conflict Resolution and Peace Building." Representatives of civil society organizations in the city, including the Diyarbakir Bar Association and the Human Rights Association (IHD), political parties, professional chambers and a large number of people attended the workshop.

Organized with the support of the Turkey Office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and moderated by Cuma Cicek, Rojda Yildiz, Sidar Bayram and Mehmet Zengin were the speakers at the workshop. The panellists focused on the experiences of Cambodia, South Sudan and South Africa, and explained in detail the conflict and resolution processes in these countries.


Under the title "(Auto) Genocide and Deferred Justice in the Shadow of the Cold War: Experiences from Cambodia," Sidar Bayram explained that although there was an ongoing resolution process in Cambodia, the conflicts continued until the early 1990s. Pointing out that resolution talks resumed toward the end of the 1990s, Bayram said, "If we look at current events from Turkey's perspective, we can compare them in terms of poverty, which the country has experienced heavily recently, and the correspondence of problems that manifest themselves in other ways with ethnic identity."

Speaking about the internal conflicts in Sudan and the process that led to the independence of South Sudan, Mehmet Sezgin explained that there was a 17-year conflict in the country between 1955 and 1972 and after 1972, the parties began to negotiate. Sezgin explained, "In the agreement, South Sudan became autonomous. There was a peace process that lasted about 10 years. We can compare the assimilation policy in Sudan with that of the Kurdish issue." Sezgin pointed out that the process in Sudan could therefore shed light on the Kurdish issue.

Under the title "South Africa's Three Centuries of Colonial History and Legacy: Conflict and Peace Experiences of the Rainbow Nation," Rojda Yildiz emphasized that the experience of colonialism and racism had been especially grave in South Africa. Focusing on the history of conflict and resolution processes in South Africa and the relations between the parties, Yildiz pointed out that racism in the country had made the process more difficult. After the parties began negotiations, the major issue was the suffering of the victims of the massacres, she said. Adding that the regime acknowledged this and apologized in 1991, Yildiz also pointed out that the relatives of the victims of the massacres built and popularized a discourse on the tradition of "forgiveness" that exists in ancient African culture, and in this way a workable solution was developed.


After the presentations, the workshop continued with a question and answer session. Participants took the floor and asked questions about the similarities between the experiences in Cambodia, South Sudan and South Africa with the Kurdish issue. Among the questions asked was, "Whenever a resolution is discussed in this country, the deep state always enters the picture. Was there a deep state in these countries? What was the conduct of this structure there?"


Rojda Yildiz answered the question concerning the deep state by referring to the experience of South Africa and recalled that racism against blacks and Asians was enshrined in law during the conflict period. Yildiz pointed out that all the atrocity was overtly committed by the state: "The state itself was the deep state, and the deep state was the regime as a whole. In 1991, they acknowledged all the crimes they had committed and apologized to the non-white population."


In response to the question "Does it require a change in government to reach a resolution?" in connection with the Kurdish issue, Yildiz again cited the example of South Africa. She pointed out that it is not the change of government that is important, but the path to power itself, and recalled that there is a history behind the 1994 elections and that many negotiations had taken place up to that point. Yildiz explained that there were efforts to create a democratic environment in South Africa that took place in the period leading up to 1994: "So it is not just about the change of power. Rather, what matters is what those who will come to power, those who aspire to it, have to say."


Yildiz pointed out that in South Africa, as in the Kurdish issue, there is a conflict over the mother tongue and the languages spoken in the country. Yildiz made the following remarks:

"Until 1994, the only official language in the country was Afrikaans. After 1994 elections, the country began to transform itself around tribal languages. There are many tribes, and each tribe has its own language. And thus now, South Africa has 11 official languages. Although Afrikaans is still the most widely spoken language, there are schools in local areas where indigenous people can receive education in their native languages. Everyone learns Afrikaans and English, but also receives instruction in their native language. This issue of acknowledging pluralistic identities is one of the major challenges in South Africa.

And then there was the matter of the flag. After 1994, the flag was also changed. The flag that referred only to Africans was transformed into the new flag that represents the whole society. The anthem of the country was likewise transformed. It was changed from an anthem that referred only to Afrikaans to another anthem in which the other ethnic groups of the country inserted words from their own old anthems. Of course, many things that are considered symbolic are transformed into another pluralistic, democratic structure as described in the Constitution."


Yildiz pointed out that civil society played a very active role in the South African context and highlighted in particular the influence of the Union of Churches. Yildiz pointed out that the Union of Churches had played an active role in the peace process despite the fact that its buildings had been repeatedly bombed and their members arrested, detained and murdered: "They did a very important work, especially regarding the fact that violence and discrimination are not compatible with religious teachings.

The same goes for the Federation of Trade Unions. Perhaps this is one of the issues that Turkey should draw inspiration from. This is one of the main motivations behind the founding of the South African Federation of Trade Unions, which states in its charter that the working class will participate in this struggle for peace and justice. They are also taking an active role in the constitution-making process.