The activist and revolutionary Mark Campbell, on the 23rd April 2022, in Whitehall, London, held up a large PKK flag. In essence a principled political statement against the continued criminalisation by the UK Government of the legitimate Kurdish struggle for freedom. On 27 October 2022, Mark Campbell received a letter informing him that he is charged in terms of United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act 2000. This is starkly reminiscent of the draconian Apartheid era legislation the Internal Security Act 72 of 1982. This heinous legislation was an Act of the Apartheid Parliament of South Africa that consolidated and replaced various earlier pieces of draconian security legislation, including the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950, parts of the Riotous Assemblies Act, 1956, the Unlawful Organizations Act, 1960 and the Terrorism Act, 1967. It gave the apartheid government broad powers to ban or restrict organisations, publications, people and public gatherings, and to detain people without trial. It targeted the liberatory movement and individuals, who like Mark stood up and acted against oppression instinctively. They were correct then and history has absolved them. So too will History do to those selfless individuals such as Mark who seek and struggle passionately for a better world.
For much of its time in exile, the African National Congress (ANC) received hostile treatment from United Kingdom (UK). Although, the ANC continued to maintain its London office in Islington, which it used from 1978 to 1994, the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also called the ANC a terrorist organisation in 1987. The then widely reported quote that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called the ANC a terrorist organisation, emanates from a press conference held by the British Prime Minister at the Vancouver Commonwealth summit on 17 October 1987.
Decades on Thatcher’s comments at the 17 October 1987 press conference and the Commonwealth summit concretised her reputation as an unapologetic supporter of South Africa’s Apartheid regime. Thatcher throughout the summit stood alone among most other Commonwealth leaders opposing widening, tightening, and intensifying sanctions against South Africa. Her refusal for intensifying sanctions was underpinned by pursuing a policy of “constructive engagement” with the country’s illegitimate white minority government. An affront to many South Africans who regarded her as an evil Leader whose clear aim was to promote a “brutish” way of life and therefore hundreds of thousands of deaths are attributed to her rusted diplomacy. She provided the apartheid regime with its sustenance for much of the 70s and 80s. The arrest of freedom loving people and individuals showing solidarity with the oppressed Kurds smacks of the belligerent conduct and attitude of the previous practice of the UK conservative political leadership. In the current instance appeasing a human rights violator of renown: Turkey.
Jonnie Makatini a representative of the ANC at the 1987 conference reaction in so far as UK’s refusal to support further sanctions was that it would result in, “the further intensification of the armed struggle”. Thatcher was asked by a journalist for her response “to a reported ANC statement that they will target British firms in South Africa?” She replied: “when the ANC says that they will target British companies. This shows what a typical terrorist organisation it is”. Her association with South Africa and Africa was further tarnished when her son Mark Thatcher was convicted in January 2005 of complicity in an aborted coup plot launched from South Africa in March 2004 to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. The then Baroness Thatcher supported the failed coup. So much for her much vaunted stance on terrorism. What a legacy to the current Conservatives in power whose Police at the behest of political and economic convenience dole out criminalisation of just causes for freedom with apartheid type law, to appease its NATO partner Turkey.
The Belgium courts concluded emphatically that the PKK could not be prosecuted as a ‘terrorist’ organisation because it was a party to an armed conflict with the Turkish state. The Turkish state which has decimated over 3000 Kurdish villages and killed thousands within and outside its borders. It is therefore logical that the PKK should be removed from all terror lists. The status quo political establishment has failed as spectacularly as anything could possibly fail. We could have a world of peace, equality, justice, health and harmony, but instead we are marching toward dystopia and extinction. It is entirely within the reach of human potential to have everyone work together toward humanity thriving. Rulers such as in Apartheid South Africa, the Consertives in the UK, fascists and dictators in the North and South, and the gangsters in Washington have delivered only competition-based systems which do the exact opposite. They failed the test. It is time for something new, as espoused by the ideals of the what the PKK stands for with the vision and ideas of the revolutionary Mr Abdullah Ocalan. Like the ANC and Mr Nelson Mandela the PKK and Mr Ocalan will triumph with International solidarity and brave friends who stand for freedom.
The UK along with the US lagged well behind the positions of other nations in their official positions toward the Apartheid state. In a 1986 speech, US President Ronald Reagan condemned acts of “calculated terror” by elements of the ANC, which he said were “creating the conditions for racial war”. Two years later, the US State Department classified the ANC as a terrorist organisation. Neither the ANC nor President Mandela were removed from the US terror watch list until 2008. Absurd but it was done unashamedly by the US, the exporter of havoc across the globe and an ally of its fellow human rights violator, NATO member Turkey.
The criminalising of conduct such as Mark Campbell taking a position by displaying the PKK flag, exercising universal solidarity for freedom of oppressed people is absurd. Once again, the UK’s Conservatives and its acolytes are on the wrong side of history. The resoluteness of raising the PKK flag resonates with what is ascribed to what Madiba chose as his favourite from Julius Caesar, at the point just before the Roman statesman leaves for the senate on the Ides of March. It includes the lines: “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once”. The Conservatives, their security apparatus, and their draconian legislation together their fascist friends are the cowards. Mark Campbell you are the valiant. Aluta Continua!
Mahmoud Patel, legal scholar, academic and human rights activist is the Chairperson of the Kurdish Human Rights Action Group in South Africa.