Freedom: International students and staff tell us what it means to them
On 5 May we celebrate freedom, a basic human right that cannot be taken for granted in many countries. We asked international students and staff what freedom means to them.
Intan Utami, Master’s in ICT in the Public Sector, Indonesia
‘I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, where we are sometimes bound by cultures and beliefs. However, as much as they are somewhat limiting, their familiarity and convenience allow us to keep growing. As an international student at Leiden University, I feel a different kind of freedom where I am able to express my personal views on almost everything, during both classes and casual conversations. I am embracing both ways as they are what give colour to my life experiences.’
Viktoriia Ryhovanova, guest researcher at LUCL, Ukraine
‘I define freedom as the ability to act, speak or think without external constraints, to make choices and pursue goals without fear of coercion or oppression from external forces. It is also the ability to access information and knowledge, to participate in political processes and to enjoy equal rights and opportunities regardless of your background or identity. I have calibrated freedom as the ability to live in a democratic society that upholds the rule of law and respects human rights. In other words to have the freedom to express yourself without fear of retribution, and to have a say in the decisions that affect your life and community.’
Suryaansh Basumallik, Bachelor’s in International Relations and Organisations, India
‘For me, freedom is knowing more and having access to uncensored information. I dream of a world where individuals are born empowered, respected and able to pursue their dreams without undue constraints, where difference is celebrated, and where justice and equality prevail. In the real world, my vision is risky, optimistic and of course, unrealistic. My hope is that this freedom is used rather than abused. My vision of freedom stems from truth and transparency.’
Contributor who wishes to remain anonymous, Iran
‘In Iran speaking about the freedom to do what you want seems unachievable and makes you focus only on your basic needs and not on self-fulfilment, especially as a woman. The transition from a nonreligious to an Islamic government made life very difficult in Iran. People cannot flourish in Iran, Iranian women in particular, as they are considered the property of men.
‘I always had to play a pleaser role to be able to have the right to an education and to work in Iran. That’s what makes you decide to migrate to the Netherlands with its high level of human rights. Here you have the freedom to be what you are meant or want to be. As I write, freedom seekers and Iranians are suffering and fighting the Iranian dictatorship for basic human rights. “Woman, Life, Freedom!”.’
Photos: Monique Shaw