SOAS Kurdish Society in association with Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

The long road to peace and reconciliation in Turkey: Opportunities for genuine dialogue between Ankara and the Kurds  

Seminar on Saturday, 16 November 4-6pm

SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H OXG, Room L67, Main Building

Speakers: Judge Essa Moosa, International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative, South Africa

Akif Wan, Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) UK Representative

Chair: Birgul Yilmaz, PhD Candidate in Linguistics & Teaching Fellow, SOAS, Faculty of Languages and Cultures

The key speaker at this seminar will be Judge Essa Moosa, a distinguished human rights advocate from South Africa, who is making a brief visit to London and will bring his considerable experience of involvement in the successful anti-apartheid struggle to contribute towards a peaceful democratic resolution of the Kurdish question, in this case in Turkey. Mr Moosa will discuss his work with the new International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative, established a year ago in response to a call from Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the Turkish government to begin negotiations with the Kurdish movement.

Prospects for an end to the denial of full equality rights to the Kurdish people in the country have faltered in recent months; the enormous hopes vested in the ‘’Kurdish opening’’ promised by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan have dissipated as the democratic reforms failed to live up to the Kurdish people’s reasonable expectations.

Meanwhile, across the border from Turkey the ongoing and increasingly fractured conflict in Syria has further brought the urgency of Kurdish claims for democratic autonomy to the forefront of the political agenda. At the same time, the resumption of accession talks between the European Union and Turkey in early November has again highlighted the need for EU negotiators to seriously address the Kurdish issue; the fact that an EU spokesman has seen fit to warmly welcome the ‘’important progress on reforms that have been recently made in Turkey, in particular positive developments in the area of democracy and rule of law” is a cause for concern among Kurds who look to Brussels to uphold international treaty obligations.

Turkey’s reforms so far have not dealt with the thousands of Kurdish activists and children held in prison for political activities that would be viewed as a normal part of democratic activity elsewhere. In fact more people continue to be put in prison and brought to trial for engaging in peaceful political activities. In addition, the Turkish state pursues the prosecution of journalists, lawyers, academics and other Kurdish activists on charges arising from the carrying out of their routine professional duties. More importantly, Erdogan’s reform package also fails to address the anti-terror legislation which is generally regarded as at the root of the problem; this body of law criminalises anyone who advocates and seeks to exercise fundamental human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of expression and universal basic rights.

The international community, the EU, Washington and the UK in particular, given that Turkey is their close ally, have a moral duty to encourage the peace process between Ankara and the Kurds, including the participation of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, and to ensure that genuine negotiations are embarked upon and conducted in good faith on both sides. Moral duty inspired Archbishop Tutu to make the call for talks between the Turkish government and Kurdish leader and this has been supported by celebrated international political figures and Nobel Prize Laureates. Their call should provide a guide as to how to approach this vital international issue.

The event is free and open to all!


For information contact:

SOAS Kurdish Society

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question


Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie  Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Judge Essa Moosa

Judge Essa Moosa was born on 8 February 1936 in District Six, Cape Town, South Africa. He qualified as a lawyer and was admitted to practise as such by the High Court of the Supreme Court of South Africa on 1 June 1962. He practised as a lawyer in Cape Town from 1 June 1962 to December 1995. He was the Director of the Planning Unit in the Department of Justice from 1 February 1996 to 31 December 1997. Its task was to produce a Strategic Plan for the Transformation of the Administrative of Justice in terms of the New Democratic Constitution of South Africa.

In April 1998 he was appointed by President Nelson Mandela as a judge of the High Court of the Supreme Court of South Africa and based in Cape Town. He retired officially from active service on 8 February 2011 but still holds the position of a judge.

As a practising lawyer spanning over a period of more than 30 years, he specialised in human rights issues. During the apartheid era, he challenged in court human right violations such as detention without trial, freedom of association, expression and movement, He also challenged in court security and emergency laws and regulations. He acted for a number of prominent anti-apartheid non-governmental and community-based organisations.

He was the founding and executive member of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers and chaired its Human Rights Committee. After the unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1990, he served as the Secretary of the Constitutional Committee of the ANC. The Constitutional Committee gave logistical support to the ANC negotiation team led by Nelson Mandela for the establishment of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

He presently serves as the chairperson of the Kurdish Human Right Action Group (KHRAG) based in Cape Town. It monitors the human rights violations of the Kurdish people and further advocates the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish Question. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the European Union Turkish Civic Commission (EUTCC). He is also Director of the International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) which was launched in Brussels on 3rd December 2012 in response to a joint call led by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for the resumption of dialogue between the Turkish Government and Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for a lasting peace.

Birgul Yilmaz

Birgil Yilmaz is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics and Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies. A native of Matalya, a small town in Turkey, Birgul has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from Queen Mary University and an MRes in Language Discourse and Communication from Kings College London.  She has published articles in Bianet and Radikal newspapers on mother tongue education, ideologies of language and the relationship between Kurdish language and gender.

Her current research explores the connections between Kurdish language and identity, and she has presented at international conferences on negotiating and investigating Kurdish identities in multilingual interactions. In addition, she is trained in public services and interpreting, with experience in legal and medical interpretation, and is a skilled literacy teacher. She is also currently a community facilitator for Kurdish women at the Manor Gardens’ Health Advocacy Project.