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How Nelson Mandela's Words Inspired Me From Prison

12/10/2013 05:43 EST | Updated 02/09/2014 05:59 EST

Nelson Mandela is my hero. He has inspired the world's democracy movements and freedom-lovers. He does not only belong to the millions of South Africans, who gained freedom and right to vote as a result of his efforts, but to each of us on every continent whom Mandela allowed to believe in a better world. His passing triggered a global sense of loss and grief.

I knew Mandela since my youth. He is one of the greatest leaders; he inspired me to fight for democracy in Iran. Since I read his book Long Walk to Freedom in Iran's Evin prison in 2000, I felt stronger and more committed about my work. He gave me hope and power to fight against the Iranian dictatorship. What's even more amazing is that every one of my cell mates were reading his book as well. I'll never forget what his words gave me. After I was released, I started reading and studying more about Mandela's fight for freedom and peace, as my friends did. We learned from Mandela's non-violent movement against the apartheid regime in South Africa and its potential standards for the Iranian pro-democracy movement.

44 imprisoned Iranian pro-democracy activists, including lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists, and students sent messages of condolence from Iran's three different prisons. Heshmat Tabarzadi, a secular democrat leader in Iran, published a similar message through social media, since he is not allowed to write in public papers anymore. They all believe in Mandela's road map.

Long Walk to Freedom is not just a book, but also a road map to learn how non-violence movements can lead to democracy. Many Iranian activists follow this road map to make their movements stronger and more peaceful. I have learned a lot from Mandela's beliefs and efforts. It is unbelievable how a man who was in prison for 26 years can remain strong and inspire the whole world. There is no doubt that his commitment to peace, tolerance, and justice was true as he proved it during his fight, jail time, and presidency. He reshaped our understanding of how tolerance and peace can change the humans, and therefore, the globe.

Now, as a Canadian resident, I am very proud that this country supported Mandela during his difficult times. Canada's strong position on the apartheid regime helped Mandela, and I believe nowadays countries with dictator leaders, such as Iran, need the same support. Canada closed its Embassy in Iran and pushed the Iranian regime to free Iranian-Canadian prisoner Hamid Ghasemi from Evin prison. Canada also drafted the human rights resolution on Iran, which was approved in the third committee of general assembly of the U.N. If Canada and its allies revoke the smart/targeted sanctions against the regime and do not continue to keep the pressure on it, the human rights situation would not improve at all.

Mandela passed away, but his road map left people very hopeful for the future. Mandela's life is a message to dictators to stop torturing their citizens and to freedom fighters to continue what they are doing for their people. I am grateful for the hope he inspired and will continue fighting for the human rights and democracy.