South African archbishop and prominent human rights activist Desmond Tutu nominated Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday, June 6, this being the sixth nomination made this year for the imprisoned Palestinian parliamentary. “The nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a symbol of the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom, constitutes a clear signal of support for the realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights, including self-determination,” Tutu wrote in a letter shared by the Palestinian Liberation Organization on Tuesday. “I call on the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to seize this occasion to bring attention back to the question of Palestine and to the calls for a just and lasting peace, a prospect Marwan Barghouti continues advocating and acting for, despite years of imprisonment and isolation.”
Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work to bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa, has long spoken out against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. In his letter, Tutu called the detention of elected Palestinian representatives such as Barghouti “a blatant attack against the Palestinian nation, democracy and rights,” further denouncing Israel’s policy of mass incarceration of Palestinians “an attempt to break the will of an entire people striving for freedom and independence.” Tutu added: “There is an international consensus around these rights but there is a need to support them through symbolic and practical steps that would precipitate the end of the occupation as an indispensable step to achieve peace. I hope the Nobel Committee will take a bold decision bringing us closer to the day this holy land, charged with unique symbolic value, can stop being a living testimony of injustice and impunity, occupation and apartheid, and can finally be a beacon of freedom, hope and peace.”
The campaign to support Barghouti as a potential nominee for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize was launched in April and includes the participation of various Palestinian rights groups, parliament members and party officials, who aimed to draw attention to the 7,000 Palestinians, including seven members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, currently held in Israeli prisons. In addition to Tutu, Barghouti has thus far been nominated this year by the Arab Parliament, Palestinian National Council speaker Saleem al-Zaanoun, Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, members of Belgium’s parliament, and Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union President Nabih Berri.
In April, the Tunisian Human Rights League awarded the Nobel Peace Prize won by the country’s National Dialogue Quartet last year to Barghouti, handing the award to his wife Fadwa Barghouti in a ceremony at the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia. The Tunisian parliament has also expressed its support for the Palestinian politician’s nomination.
Barghouti, a leading politician in the Fatah party, entered the 15th year of his prison sentence this year. After being detained in 2002, he was later handed five consecutive life sentences after Israeli authorities charged him with the founding of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a group Israel designates as a “terrorist organization,” and being involved in several murders during the Second Palestinian Intifada, charges he has consistently denied. The imprisoned parliament member was politically active for several decades before being elected to parliament in 1996. However, he ascended to prominence as a powerful leader against Israeli military occupation amid the political upheaval of the Second Intifada. He has remained politically active from behind bars and remains one of the most popular politicians in Palestine, receiving a wide range of support among various political factions. Many see him as an indispensable component of hope for the possibilities of obtaining a viable peace process and a renewed unification throughout the Palestinian political landscape. Recent polls revealed Barghouti’s having more popular support than any other politician as a potential presidential replacement, and the only Fatah member to receive more support than Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh, according to a survey conducted this year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, while the majority of those polled supported the resignation of Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen).