Did you read this most important news item which is that the American congress had made the decision on Thursday June 26, 2008, to take the “terrorist” label off a world hero in the struggle for freedom and justice — the past president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela?
This means, of course, that for almost half a century the National African Congress and its icon, Nelson Mandela, who were fighting apartheid, were classified as terrorists. This classification stayed in force even after the defeat of apartheid and throughout the presidency of Nelson Mandela and for many years thereafter. Even when Mandela visited the U.S. on October 24, 1994, as president of South Africa, he was still on one terrorist list and could’ve been arrested and tried as such.
U.S. Representative Don Payne, one of those in Congress, voting for the bill to remove Mandela the former South African president from the U.S. terrorist watch list, invoked “Nelson Mandela and others who worked tirelessly to end the oppressive, inhumane system of apartheid in South Africa and said that the removal “ s a great victory for justice”. He added that “I am gratified that we were able to show our respect and high esteem for a man who is loved and admired around the world”.
So why did the American congress take the decision to put the name of a freedom fighter who was “loved and admired around the world”, as they say, on the terrorist watch list in the first place? If congressmen now acknowledge that Nelson Mandela was fighting against ” an oppressive and inhumane system” why did they classify the ANC and its President, fighting against this system, as terrorists?
How much did this decision of congress delay the triumph of the people of South Africa and prolong Mandela’s imprisonment cell 46664 in Robben Island off Capetown? Some say that the U.S.Congress removed his name from the terrorist watch list only in anticipation of his 90th birthday on July 18, 2008. How many freedom fighters are granted the time to live to the age of 90 in order to see their names removed from the bad guy list and put on the right and honorable one? The classification of ANC and Nelson Mandela as terrorists who were deemed illegal in apartheid South Africa puts an ironic sheen on the decision taken by the U.S. Congress and the moral values and objectives of such decisions, especially as this decision was made years before 9/11, and therefore, doesn’t have the pretext of preserving the security of the U.S. We have to recall here that most world fighters for freedom and against occupation and oppression, from Ernesto Che Guevara, Salvador Allende and Patrice Lumumba to other fighters for freedom in India, Algeria, Palestine, Lebanon to South Africa, were on the American watch list.
The second question is: how many fighters for freedom, justice and democracy are today on the watch list? How many resistance movements are fighting occupation and humiliation?
After 9/11 the U.S. started to issue a classification of countries and people, and then to act on its own decisions by invading countries, occupying others, and financially and militarily supporting occupation and settlements and allowing collective punishment and genocide against indigenous and unarmed people.
As a point of principle no country in the world has the moral authority to classify people, movements or countries and impose on the international will its agenda for dealing with people, movements and countries. Such judgments should be confined to an international judicial body that is internationally recognized as an unquestionable moral authority.
For the last few years most western policies followed in tracks of the U.S. government, especially after 9/11, by oppressing and pressuring freedom fighters and independence movements under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”. Thus can we understand the measures and decisions taken against the Arab People in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia.
Dr BOUTHAINA SHAABAN is a member of the Syrian cabinet, as Minister of Expatriates – ie the 15 million members of the Syrian diaspora. She was a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee in 2005. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org