Today a statute of Mandela will be unveiled in Palestine, and I cannot imagine a place more suitable for such an initiative. This statute will honour Madiba’s unique legacy. It will celebrate the historical bonds between our two nations and their two symbols: Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat, as well as the many ties developed throughout our struggles. But more importantly, it will remind the world of this simple fact: freedom is the only path to peace.
I launched the Free Mandela campaign in 1961 before spending 26 years in apartheid jails. There were times where it seemed freedom was out of reach. But our people’s steadfastness and resilience and our faith that our cause shall prevail, allowed us, under the leadership of Mandela, to withstand the test of time behind bars, the oppression and repression, and to eventually overcome apartheid.
Three years ago, as yet another reflection of the similarity in our struggles, we launched from the cell of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island a campaign to release Marwan Barghouthi – often dubbed “Palestine’s Mandela” – and all Palestinian prisoners.
Eight Nobel peace prize laureates have endorsed this campaign and its founding text, the Robben Island Declaration, and so did 115 governments around the world and hundreds of former Heads of States, parliamentarians, artists, intellectuals, academics and thousands of citizens.
Alongside our people’s struggle on the ground, the Free Mandela Campaign and the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement were instrumental in vanquishing apartheid. Similarly, I am convinced that the Free Marwan and all Palestinian Political Prisoners campaign and the BDS movement will be decisive in defeating the Israeli occupation.
Marwan in his eulogy of Mandela stated: “You said, ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’ And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours. Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine.” Mandela’s legacy will be the witness of the triumph of this struggle that he symbolises and continues to embody.
Humans are born and remain free and equal in rights, and it is our duty to ensure freedom and dignity for all. Today, Palestine is the world capital of this universal struggle.