People from various walks of life from France and the UK have written a letter to the Prime Minister to request that Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin’s visa be renewed. Excerpts from the letter:
We are citizens of the world, intellectuals, writers, attached to women’s rights and to freedom of expression. Your party leads the largest secular democracy of the Asian subcontinent and even of the world. A rare and precious exception. After years of wandering, Taslima Nasrin, a Bengali writer, found refuge there, at the same time as she rediscovered the pleasure of living in a country where she could be read in her language.
But while she thought herself finally safe, she must once more suffer the hatred and rage of fanatics who will never forgive a woman for being free and for saying so.
On several occasions these last months, tens of thousands of enraged people called for her head and burned her effigies. Your country protected her against death, but no longer wishes to protect her against intimidation.
Her Indian visa will expire on the 17th of August, and the highest authorities have let it be known that it will not be renewed. Taslima Nasrin will thus have to leave the country, her refuge, and again take up the exile’s way. That boils down to vindicating the fanatics and punishing her in depriving her of the right to live in this country, yours, that she loves and that she chose. That signal would be terrible.
We are aware that her freedom of expression, about women and about religions, constitutes a challenge for a country traversed by passions between communities. We do not believe that those passions can be appeased in giving credence to extremists. We implore you not to cede to their blackmail and to violence. Do not punish Taslima on account of their intolerance.
Your country knows better than anyone the importance of defending those who dare to disobey peacefully.
Taslima is among these disobedients. She represents a hope for all who dream of peacefully liberating themselves from traditions and beliefs that keep women in a form of segregation. Do not kill that hope. Prove wrong those who believe or make believe that one must be born in a northern country to live and speak freely. Demand that Taslima Nasrin’s visa be renewed.
Signed: Catherine Clément, writer; Daniel Cohn-Bendit, European deputy; Jeanne Favret-Saada, anthropologist; Jean-François Julliard, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders; Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris. In UK: Fariborz Pooya (Iranian Secular Society), Maryam Namazie, (One Law for All), Asad Abbas, (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Mahin Alipour, (Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran), Mina Ahadi, (International Committee against Stoning and Execution).