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Text of Speech by Nkosi ZMD Mandela in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

It is wonderful to be in the Islamic Republic of Iran a country and nation that inspired my grandfather whilst he was in prison. The Islamic Revolution  of 1979 under the leadership of Imam Khomeini represents one of the greatest defeats of modern imperialism.

We bring fraternal greetings from the people of South Africa to the Iranian people. The ties that bind us are deep and historic. We are after all one human race whom Allah has honoured and therefore all human life is sacred. We therefore uphold fundamental human rights for every single person or we fail towards all.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was one of the first to support the declaration of Apartheid and one of the first to recognise our nascent democracy. During his visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1992 my grandfather emphasised that the Islamic revolution in Iran gave hope to the people of South Africa in their struggle against injustice.

Allow me to extend my best wishes on the occasion of the Islamic new year and the commencement of the sacred month of Muharam 1444. May Allah Almighty grant us the strength, courage and wisdom to continue to dedicate our lives to the cause of upholding justice and human rights for all.

In a few days Ashura will be observed here in The Islamic Republic of Iran and by Muslims all over the world. The martyrdom of Imam Hussain beloved grandson of our most beloved Messenger of Allah Muhammad peace be upon him will always stand as the highest symbol of sacrifice.

The tragic events of Ashura epitomises the fundamental reality that the truth can never be vanquished and that the test of time is to stand for human rights regardless of whom is for or against us.

H.E. President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela demonstrated his commitment to the struggle for human rights and was imprisoned for 27 years in the prime of his adult life. He was deprived of the fundamental human rights and of the simple joys of life such as watching his children and grandchildren grow, to enjoy their laughter and delight in the joys of their achievements.

During his incarceration he lost his mother and his son and could not lay them to rest or participate in anyway in their funerals. He demonstrated to us the quality of leadership that is required to build a human rights culture in the world and that it will always come at a great personal cost and sacrifice.

Today we witness the prevailing hypocrisy in the world as we witness the unfolding of great tragedies, genocide and human displacement on an unprecedented scale in the middle east as if there is no international law protecting human rights and as if there are different sets of rules for some than for others.

We know this hypocrisy too well as we also encountered it in our own struggle. Western imperialism stood cheek by jowl with the South African Apartheid state whilst our children were being slaughtered while protesting in the streets, while young people were snatched in the prime of their lives and have never been found, and our elders either abused as cheap slave labour in agriculture, mining and industry or serving time in Apartheid jails. What happened to human rights?

Our new democracy was not an easy, insignificant or frivolous achievement. It was not handed to us on a silver platter without sweat and tears. On the contrary the struggle for liberation, freedom and human rights was extremely exacting and many generations struggled and sacrificed everything for over 350 years to usher in a new dispensation in which the fundamental human rights of each citizen is safeguarded by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

In the 60s and 70s the politics of regime change saw the overthrow of many elected governments in Latin America. The 80s, 90s and the new millennium has witnessed that policy playing itself out in the middle east where under the guise of fighting terrorism or the lie of weapons of mass destruction genocide was perpetrated.

The forces of imperialism has played its hands in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. In Kashmir, Western Sahara and Palestine these struggles have persisted for decades in the full glare of the mainstream media, social media and global public opinion.

Our support for the Palestinian struggle is unequivocal and we draw inspiration from President Mandela’s principled position that ‘our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinian people.’

In this cause we join the leadership and people of Iran in standing with the oppressed people of Palestine until freedom dawns.

We join millions of people in the international human rights and solidarity network, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and all freedom loving people in the struggle to end Apartheid Israel’s illegal occupation.

On behalf of all who support the struggle for a free Palestine and especially the brave and courageous men, women and children of Palestine, I humbly accept this prize. On behalf of Shireen Abu Akleh and all those martyred in Occupied Palestine, I accept this prize. And on behalf of all the children, women and political prisoners languishing in Apartheid Isreal jails, I accept this prize.

Long live the struggle for a free Palestine!

Long live!

I thank you!

Nkosi Zwelivelile

Royal House of Mandela

Mvezo Komkhulu

P.O. Box 126

Viedgesville 5102

Eastern Cape Province

South Africa