Written by Federico Venturini. The article below has been originally published as a preface in the book Your Freedom and Mine: Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish Question in Erdogan’s Turkey
Your Freedom and Mine began with the idea of shining a brighter light on the work of the EUTCC International İmralı Peace Delegations. Given the complexity of the situation, we soon realized that much more needed to be said, with the result that the book expanded rapidly beyond its original scope. Although it wasn’t possible to include all of the original material in the final version of the book, we believe that we have managed to outline the Kurdish question, deepen the debate, and provide some answers on the battles still to be fought. The book has several different goals. The first is to present an informed historical account and political analysis of the Kurdish question, drawing on original material and first-hand accounts. To embrace the diversity of experience, we have given space to authors with different styles and different backgrounds, including activists, lawyers, politicians, journalists, and academics. Only a plurality of voices will serve to depict the complicated jigsaw of the Middle East. This collection seeks to highlight both the intricacy of the current situation and its international ramifications.
It is also intended to breach the wall of silence on recent events in the Middle East, highlighting the tragedy and hopes of the Kurdish people. In the aftermath of the Kurdish combatants’ heroic resistance in Kobane and their struggle against ISIS, a renewed blanket of silence has dropped once again over their aspirations for freedom as well as those of other minorities in the Middle East. This book reveals the very real nature of human rights violations and calls for the peace process in Turkey to be restarted as soon as possible, in which Abdullah Öcalan must play a prominent role.
As my co-editor Thomas Jeffrey Miley has pointed out several times, Your Freedom and Mine is a labour of love. All the people that contributed did so because of their connections and commitment to social change. As a famous Aboriginal saying of the 1970s puts it: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” This is fundamental to our work: we look at this book project not only because we want to help the Kurdish movement, but because we believe our own struggles are intimately linked with theirs and those of many others in the world.
The final and most important goal of this book is to inform in order to inspire change. We hope that readers are inspired by the Kurdish example to fight for a different world. The Kurdish people know their situation intimately because they live it, in their skin, every day; this book shares their experience with the rest of the world. It has been said that the Kurds have embarked on the most advanced and successful movement for social transformation in recent decades. Your Freedom and Mine urges us to support, learn from, be inspired, and transformed by their experience. We cannot abandon them and, in these dark days, we must take inspiration from them to build change in our own cities, neighbourhoods, and streets.
One person who embodied this ethos to the end was the late Judge Essa Moosa, former Supreme Court judge of South Africa and lawyer for Nelson Mandela. Essa devoted his life to fighting apartheid and never stopped. He was on the front line of promoting and protecting human rights around the world. While he was the leader of the İmralı Peace delegation, we worked together, and he taught us to be patient, precise, focused, committed, and open-hearted. From him, we learned that struggles need a holistic vision in which everyone has a specific part to play.
I want to thank Thomas Jeffrey Miley for offering me the chance to be part of this project; Nathan McDonnell at Black Rose Books for his crucial assistance; Josie Hooker for translations, proofreading, and editing; and the Asrın Law Office and Ms. Didar Erdem for their tireless work for justice and truth. This book is just a drop in the ocean, but what is the ocean made of if not of drops? Ours is just one effort among millions of others who, like ants working patiently piece by piece, open cracks in history. The reader will judge if we have fulfilled our aims. We tried our best to do our part, now let’s go out and transform our society, in a collective, bottom-up pursuit of an ecological and democratic future.