The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Iran in partnership with the Embassy of Japan held the “Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’’ film night and exhibition on Monday evening in the Iranian capital of Tehran.
The ceremony was held at the Japanese Embassy in Tehran with the participation of the South African Ambassador Vika Mazwi Khumalo, Japanese Ambassador Ikawa Kazutoshi, the UN Resident Coordinator for the Islamic Republic of Iran Stefan Priesner, some Iranian diplomats and foreign ambassadors to Tehran.
It was in commemoration of Nelson Mandela, whose successful struggle against South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation and discrimination made him a global symbol for the cause of human rights and earned him the Nobel Prize.
Mandela was the first black president of South Africa from 1994-1999 and the first president elected after the end of apartheid, an extensive system of segregation and discrimination based on race.
‘Long Walk to Freedom’ based on which the exhibition was held, is an autobiography credited to South African President Nelson Mandela. The book profiles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years spent in prison. Under the apartheid government, Mandela was regarded as a terrorist and jailed on the infamous Robben Island for his role as a leader of the then-outlawed African National Congress (ANC) and its armed wing the Umkhonto We Sizwe. He later achieved international recognition for his leadership as president in rebuilding the country’s once segregationist society. The last chapters of the book describe his political ascension and his belief that the struggle still continued against apartheid in South Africa.
In the ceremony hosted by the Embassy of Japan, the Japanese envoy to Tehran Ikawa Kazutoshi in an interview with Mehr News spoke about the reasons for hosting such a ceremony by Japanese Embassy, saying that Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy were very inspirational for the people of the world as well as people in Japan.
“The friendship between Nelson Mandela and Japan started in 1990 when he was released from prison. Just one month after his release from prison… He visited our consulate-general in Pretoria at that time. That was a kind of the beginning of a friendship. And since then, he visited Japan three times. He also was inspirational and instrumental in helping the development of cooperation with Africa. So, for us, Nelson Mandela is really an inspirational person. He also contributed a great deal to our bilateral relations with Japan. That’s why we hosted the ceremony.”
“His lifelong struggle against apartheid and his efforts to promote national reconciliation has been inspirational not only in Japan as well in the Islamic Republic of Iran. So, there are a lot of people in the government or outside of the government looking very high on the achievements of Mr. Mandela done,” he added.
Vika Mazwi Khumalo, the South African Ambassador to Iran, for his part, pointed to the impact of the Islamic Revolution of Iran on the uprising of his country, saying, “Imam Khomeini cut ties with the apartheid government of South Africa and offered assistance to freedom-seekers in Africa and he brought some of the freedom-fighters to Iran for training. And once they became ready, they returned to South Africa.”
“So, a very good relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa was born. The previous apartheid government of South Africa had a relatively good relationship with the Shah of Iran and he used to visit South Africa from time to time and owned some properties there. But the new revolution that allowed us to overthrow the apartheid regime of South Africa was assisted and gave us impetus by Imam Khomeini,” he added.
Answering a question about the impact of holding such ceremonies and commemorating such figures like Mandela in improving the human rights situation and eliminating discrimination in the world, the UN Resident Coordinator for the Islamic Republic of Iran Stefan Priesner told Mehr News, “I think Mandela was one of the most prominent and exceptional statemen of the 20th century. Most significantly he brought South Africa out of a very complex situation and changed it into a functional country in terms of human rights and non-discrimination. For the UN, it is significant that he did all these in line with the UN values including reconciliation, social justice, non-discrimination, democracy and human rights. That is why it is only fair that Nelson Mandela is the main name giver of a very important international day. There are more than 200 international days that the UN celebrates every year.”
Mehr News also asked Mr. Priesner to elaborate on what role the UN should play in eliminating apartheid and racial discrimination at the world level like what we are witnessing today in the Occupied Land of Palestine and against the people of this country.
“The UN is playing and should play a very supportive role all over the world to many different countries but we must not forget that this world is the world of sovereign countries so very often it is the country that takes the lead and the UN is there on one hand to set the standards that may take time until for example issues such as nondiscrimination were defined. Secondly, there are teams of the UN in developing countries to help the countries implement the policies of nondiscrimination. There are many problems that must be solved, very complex ones but this is about collaboration between the member states and the UN,” Priesner said.
Referring to the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in assisting South African freedom-seekers in overthrowing the then apartheid government of the country, Iranian diplomat Alireza Masoumi said that from the very beginning, Iran has had very good relations with the freedom-seekers of South Africa, adding that Imam Khomeini cut export of the oil to the country to assist the freedom seekers.
He further noted that Mr. Mandela was released from prison exactly on the 22nd of Bahman, 1367 ( 11 Feb.1989) and the then president of Iran announced the news while addressing the Iranian nation celebrating the anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
The Iranian diplomat also said that commemorating anti-apartheid figures like Mandela positively affects the trend of elimination of discrimination from the world particularly in the Occupied Lands because the Zionist regime has always been worried about being compared with the then apartheid regime of South Africa.