by Firoz Osman
The Global Campaign for Right of Return to Palestine held from August 27-29 in Karbala, Iraq attracted 150 delegates from 65 countries.
Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, has a glorious Islamic history spanning more than 500 years.
Heart rending tales were related by Palestinian victims of Israeli brutality.
The passionate and agonizing yearning of a mother to see and hold her son imprisoned for 32 years moved the entire audience to tears.
Muhammad, a young man who was on a hunger strike for 100 days, related the pangs of conscience in leaving his mother alone at home to face zionist aggression.
His brothers and sister were also in prison during the same period.
His father had died a martyr, killed by the Israelis.
Another father described how his wife, mother of their son who was martyred, was the stronger partner.
She knew that her son was putting on his battle fatigues every evening to confront the zionist occupiers but kept it from the father.
She was the stronger of the two parents.
When their son was martyred, she pledged to support her other children to do battle in the path of freedom for Palestine.
There are many important reasons for organizing this conference for the liberation of Palestine in Karbala.
In the year 61 Hijri, Imam Hussain, the grandson of prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), confronted the illegitimate ruler of the time.
The tyrant demanded that Imam Hussain pledge his allegiance upon pain of death in order to legitimize his rule.
The choice Imam Hussain made left an indelible mark on history that has influenced generations of Muslims over many centuries.
The Imam chose dignity and freedom over slavery and sacrificed his life and 72 members of his family and close companions.
It exacted a very high price in life and blood, but the principle was firmly established.
Imam Hussain’s principled stand left an exemplary precedent for the oppressed to challenge all despots who oppress through threats and coercion.
Had the Imam capitulated, every tyrant in succeeding generations would have used his example as justification for their usurpation of power.
While Karbala was an immense tragedy, Imam Hussain’s martyrdom was a triumph of truth over falsehood; of courage over cowardice; of legitimacy over illegality, and of principle over opportunism.
His sacrifice will continue to provide solace to those Palestinians languishing in the torture chambers of the ruthless zionists, and the victims of oppression everywhere.
A procession known as “Arba‘een”, a commemoration forty days after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, is a phenomenal annual event where more than 20 million people—men, women and children—walk from various cities to Karbala.
The sheer willpower, determination and resoluteness is a powerful demonstration of solidarity with all the oppressed of the world, and a clear message to the zionist regime in particular, that no matter how long it takes, Palestine will be free.
There were many participants from newly liberated countries such as Afghanistan; members of Imran Khan’s party and Jama‘at-e Islami from Pakistan; politicians and activists; artists and academics, and our very own South African Mandlasizwe Mandela.
Solidarity representatives included Arabs and Africans, Iranians and Malaysians, Indonesians and Indians, Europeans and Latin Americans, Shias and Sunnis, Hindus and Christians.
While most conferences entail hours of speeches with little action, they do provide an opportunity for delegates to network and learn from each other’s experiences.
Messages of support from such gatherings can only give courage to the Palestinians to continue in their quest for freedom.
With a number of Palestinian activists demonstrating immense faith and optimism in their just cause, the third conference will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December.
It will be an important step in consolidating South African and international support for Palestine.
Dr Firoz Osman is Executive Member at Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa