Time to free Palestine’s Marwan Barghouthi, the new Mandela, after 20 years in jail
On this day we should remember Nelson Mandela who was released from prison 25 years ago on February 11th 1990.
We should also remember Marwan Barghouthi, the Palestinian leader who has been held in Israeli jails for 20 years. Like Mandela, he is the leader who could come out of prison, unite all the factions, win the presidency, negotiate a peace settlement, put it to his people, win their support and then preside over a process of truth and reconciliation in a newly independent country.
Instead he sits in Cell 28 of Hadarim Prison near the Mediterranean resort of Herzliya knowing that his release can only be the result of the kind of international campaign that succeeded, all those years ago, in freeing Nelson Mandela.
We appeal to all supporters of an independent Palestinian state to support the International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouthi and All Palestinian Prisoners (http://fmaapp.ps/) and join with campaigns in France, Italy and other European countries to mark the anniversary of his abduction and arrest on April 15th 2015.
Time to remember Mandela’s release and demand Marwan’s freedom
by Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years in apartheid jails, Founder of the Free Mandela Campaign, & Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, former political prisoner under the dictatorship in Argentina
On this day, 25 years ago, the world finally saw Mandela’s smile and his defiant fist raised to the skies. Free at last…free at last. Mandela’s release marked the start of a new era and was the first real sign that apartheid was close to its end.
There was still everything to do, but the apartheid government signaled through the release of Mandela and other 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.
Note: The International 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 http://fmaapp.org/the-international-high-level-committee/
FREE MARWAN BARGHOUTHI
THE NEW MANDELA
Barghouthi’s tribute to Mandela; Robben Island Declaration; Foreword by Yahya
Idris; Marwan’s Story as told by Fadwa Barghouthi to Martin Linton; 32pp
020 7998 4732
160 London Road, Kingston KT2 6QW