Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with Fox News channel in Damascus. (Syrian Arab News Agency file photo/AP)

In a statement that was greeted with derision from opposition activists and commentators, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is two and a half years into a civil war that began as a peaceful uprising against his autocratic rule, said Friday that Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom and justice provides a lesson for the world’s oppressors.

“His history of struggle has become an inspiration to all the vulnerable peoples of the world, in the expectation that oppressors and aggressors will learn the lesson that in the end it is they who are the losers,” Assad said in the statement, which was posted on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Arab Republic’s Presidency.

Mandela would continue to be “a symbol of patience, resilience and liberation” after his death, it said.