"I cannot breathe” is an apparently simple sentence that is being repeated millions of times these days with a new meaning. With every repetition, it reminds us of thousands of pages in the history of racial discrimination. This sentence was among the last words uttered by George Floyd and Eric Garner before their deaths while being chokehold under the ruthless boots of the American police. Now, it has turned into a symbol of the last words uttered by thousands of individuals who have been the victims of racial discrimination and who stop breathing under the boots of the American government without their demands and claims being heard by the international community. The thousands of Muslims murdered in anti-Arab and anti-Islamic wars waged by the US and Israel, and the thousands of Africans murdered and suppressed by the South African Apartheid regime, are merely a few examples of these horrific circumstances.
What Is Apartheid?
In Afrikaans, apartheid means "apartness” and generally the term refers to legal racism and racial segregation in the history of South Africa. This tyrannical culture, based on "baasskap” (white supremacy), for a long time had put the majority of blacks under the political, social and economic domination of a white minority. And, it had subjected them to a savage form of deprivation. Although it had a perennial presence in South Africa, the culture was established as a formal and legal policy in 1948, and it survived until 1991. On the basis of that savage policy, the black community had to live in underprivileged areas, with limited amenities, and without having the right to leave those areas. They did not even have the right to participate in national or religious ceremonies, and they were deprived of all amenities and resources. Between 1960 and 1983, more than 305 million Africans lost their homes following the implementation of the apartheid laws and were forced to move to those specific areas.
With these measures, the Apartheid system gradually provoked the rage of justice-seeking activists and led to the emergence of influential movements in the 20th century. In the 1960s and 1970s, resistance inside the country against Apartheid resulted in bloody repressions by the regime, and thousands of individuals were killed or imprisoned.
Nelson Mandela is the most celebrated figure in fighting Apartheid in South Africa. He was arrested in August of 1962 following his activities against apartheid. He had also been arrested many times before that. After being arrested in 1962, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and was kept in prison until 1990. He resumed his activities after he was released from prison, and ultimately his actions led to the formal abolition of Apartheid and he later became president.
Imam Khomeini was an inspiration for anti-Apartheid movements
After being released from prison and while busy with his political and social activities, Nelson Mandela acknowledged many times that Imam Khomeini had been an inspiration for him on his path. He considered Imam Khomeini to be an awakening force for all his contemporary monotheists. He described him as being not only the leader of the Islamic Revolution but also the leader of all freedom-seeking movements throughout the entire world. During his presidency, Mandela travelled to Iran two times, and in both trips he met with Imam Khamenei. During these meetings, he emphasized that Imam Khomeini was a source of inspiration for the South African people in their anti-Apartheid activities. In addition to Nelson Mandela, there are many other intellectual and political figures involved in the anti-Apartheid cause who consider Imam Khomeini an inspiration for their fight against racism. Gerard Horn, a professor at Houston University in Texas, stated that the Islamic Revolution and Imam Khomeini’s ideas prepared the ground for the victory of the South African people and other countries in South Africa in their fight against Apartheid and its Western supporters. Hanif Henderson, a Muslim member of the South African Parliament, said in an interview with RNA that they hadn’t had any hope of achieving victory over the Apartheid regime. He goes on to say that it was Imam Khomeini who, having defeated the oppressive monarchical regime in Iran, revived the idea of fighting and gaining freedom for their people.