Originally published in the Guardian:

The Guardian, Monday 20 January 2014 21.00 GMT

I am writing in response to an editorial published in your newspaper on the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death (5 December). The article drew comparisons between Mandela, Nehru, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and me. Such comparisons belying a hegemonic mindset demonstrate a lack of understanding of the reality of those faced with struggling for freedom.

In describing me as “feared and worshipped”, I detect hostility towards those who are forced to rely on their self-belief in their struggle against slavery, massacres and policies of denial. Since I have been imprisoned under conditions of solitary confinement on an island for the last 14 years, it is difficult to see how I can be credibly described as a source of fear for anyone except perhaps my captors.

Such a description belittles the four decades of struggle for freedom of the 40 million Kurds who see me as representing their will and have placed their trust in my efforts to reach a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question. In that respect, I can say in all modesty that Dear Madiba and I have more parallels than contrasts. He managed to bring an end to the apartheid regime as a leader in whom the South African people had placed their complete faith in his commitment to peace. He has become a shining star for the peoples of Africa. Our historical mission is to ensure the ever brilliance of this star for the peoples of the Middle East.

Negotiation and struggle are both important processes in determining the future of peoples’ movements. It is not those who are feared but rather those who have the confidence of their people that can lead those processes.

Abdullah Öcalan
The prison island of Imrali