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Mandela's Release & Marwan's Imprisonment.

Published on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 10:35

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By Ahmed Kathrada and Adolfo Perez Esquivel

On this day, 25 years ago, the world finally discovered his smile coupled with a defying fist raised to the skies. Free at last...free at last. Mandela's release marked the start of a new era and was the real indication that apartheid was close to an end. All was still to be done, but the apartheid government signaled through the release of Mandela and anti-apartheid prisoners its readiness to engage in serious dialogue towards freedom, peace, reconciliation and coexistence.

While we celebrate this historical event that changed durably the face of South Africa and the world, we are reminded of the fate of another symbol of freedom: Marwan Barghouthi. Marwan's path tremendously resembles Mandela's. They both founded the youth branch of their political movements, drew their legitimacy from their activism on the ground and their central role in building a mass uprising against oppression. They both were leaders at the moment of their arrest, and transformed into national and universal symbols while in detention. They both boycotted their courts and pleaded the case of their people rather than their own. While insisting on the right of their people to resist oppression, including through armed struggle, they both strongly advocated mass popular peaceful resistance to achieve freedom. They also both demonstrated an unbelievable capacity to be unitarian figures among their own, while engaging in dialogue with the other.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mandela's release, and the 20th year that Marwan spends behind bars, including the last 13 years consecutively. In October 2013, an international campaign was launched from Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island for the freedom of Marwan and all Palestinian political prisoners. We decided to set up, on this occasion, an International High Level Committee for the release of Marwan and all prisoners, as we ourselves, have experienced international solidarity in support of our freedom, and the freedom of our companions in struggle. Such international campaigns send a powerful message: our imprisonment entails a significant political and moral cost for the forces of oppression.

When we talk of political imprisonment, the Palestinian example is clearly the most significant and shocking of all. 800 000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point of their lives. Many Palestinians have spent over 25 or 30 years in prison. No one is immune; children, women, MPs and human rights defenders continue to languish in Israeli jails.

The anti-apartheid struggle became an emblematic reflection of the battle for freedom and human rights worldwide. Apartheid was considered as one of the worst manifestations of oppression and injustice. What conflict can today symbolise the struggle for freedom against oppression, of right over might, of justice against impunity, more than the Palestinian struggle? Israel's colonial and discriminatory policies, both in the occupied territory, and within its own borders, are a clear demonstration that we are witnessing the rebirth of apartheid, a prospect none of us should tolerate.

By launching the Free Marwan and all Palestinian Prisoners campaign, inspired by the Free Mandela campaign, we are not only taking a strong stance against this occupation and what it inflicts upon the Palestinian people, but we are also testifying our belief that the Palestinian struggle is the legitimate prolongation of the anti-apartheid struggle and that the freedom of Marwan and of all Palestinian prisoners is the necessary prelude to the freedom of the Palestinian people.

We will one day celebrate the release of Marwan. And the world will discover his smile, and his defying fist, which will transform into an open hand ready to shake the hand of the future and work for peace, as soon as Israel manifests its intention to end its occupation, not further entrench it. All our victories over oppression, racism, discrimination, segregation and apartheid must combine to ensure the triumph of freedom and dignity in Palestine, and peace based on international law.

Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid icon who spent 26 years in apartheid jails, Founder of the Free Mandela Campaign, Founder of the International High Level Committee for the Freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners Campaign.

Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former political prisoner under the dictatorship in Argentina, member of the International High Level Committee for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners

The International High Level Committee for the freedom of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian prisoners regroups Nobel Peace Prize laureates, former political leaders, human rights figures and former political prisoners including the signatories of this text and Angela Davis, US civil rights movement icon, as well as the late U Win Tin, leader of the struggle for freedom in Burma.

See more at FMAAP

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Publication:Palestine News Network (West Bank, Palestine)
Date:Feb 11, 2015
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