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Hanan Ashrawi to give Leiden Freedom Lecture 2011

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The Leiden Freedom Lecture will be delivered on Friday 17 June in the Pieterskerk in Leiden by Hanan Ashrawi, champion of the peaceful liberation of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Ashrawi is an active advocate of human rights and of the broadening of democracy within the Palestinian Authority.

Freedom, human rights and democracy

The Leiden Freedom Lecture, to be held this year for the second time, is an initiative of Leiden University, the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) and the Leiden municipality. The three partners aim to emphasise the city's centuries-old link with the ideology of freedom. The Leiden Freedom Lecture was instigated in order to highlight the importance of freedom for scholarship and democracy, and to keep alive the debate on freedom. The organisation of the Freedom Lecture is this year in the hands of Leiden's municipal council. Last year, the highly successful first Freedom Lecture was delivered by Salman Rushdie.

In 1998, Hanan Ashrawi established MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for a General Dialogue and Democracy. Her aim with this initiative was to bring to a peaceful end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. MIFTAH also works for human rights and the broadening of democracy within the Palestian Authority. Ashrawi is primarily motivated by humanitarian rather than ideological or historical considerations. She was awarded the Olaf Palme Prize in 2002 and the Sydney Peace Prize in 2003.

Leiden and freedom
The city of Leiden has a long and rich tradition of freedom. During the Eighty Years War, in 1574, the city was beseiged for many months by the army of the King of Spain, under the authority of the dreaded Duke of Alba. Eventually, on 3 October 1574, the city was liberated by Prince William of Orange. Freedom of religion was a key theme in the conflict with Spain. During the occupation, the municipal council devised a motto for the city: Haec Libertatis Ergo or This in the name of Freedom, the motto that still features in the coat of arms of the city of Leiden and that has been a guiding principle for many. The University, that was founded by the Prince a few months after the liberation of the city, adopted as its motto: Praesidium Libertatis (Bastion of Freedom). This is still the University's motto even to the present day.

Inspired by these two mottos, the President of Leiden University, Professor Paul van der Heijden, the Chairman of the Board of the Leiden University Medical Center, Professor Ferry Breedveld, and the Mayor of Leiden, Henri Lenferink, resolved to instigate an annual Freedom Lecture. The lecture is open to all interested members of the public. The location of the lecture is the historic Pieterskerk, that played a prominent role during the period of the seige of the city.

Freedom is never automatic
By instigating an annual Freedom Lecture, the three initiators aim to draw attention to the importance of freedom. Freedom is an absolute prerequisite for scholarship to flourish. The academic freedom to carry out research without interference from potentates, religious assumptions or prejudices, and to search for new explanations, is a necessary condition for progress and prosperity. But the concept of freedom also plays a crucial role in democracy. The freedom of citizens to take decisions and to vote according to their own insights and conscience, and the other constitutional liberties are and will remain the cornerstones of society within a democratic state. Freedom is never automatic; like equality and fraternity, it constantly has to be given new impetus.

You are very welcome to attend the Freedom Lecture on 17 June 2011 in the Pieterskerk, Pieterskerkhof 1A in Leiden. The lecture begins at 15.00 hrs. To ensure a timely begin, we would ask you to please be seated by 14.30 at the latest. After the lecture, at approx. 16.00 hrs, there will be the opportunity for further discussion.