Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, sends message of solidarity to Mubarak Bala, detained for 100 days
Nobel Laureate, poet, playwright and essayist Wole Soyinka writes to detained human rights activist and fellow humanist Mubarak Bala on his one hundredth day in detention, sharing a message of hope, courage and solidarity.
Nigerian human rights activist, Mubarak Bala, is the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. Arrested at his home in Kaduna state on 28 April 2020, Bala was subsequently transferred to Kano state, where a complaint had been filed based on posts Bala is alleged to have made on Facebook which the petitioners judged to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.
On 24th July 2020, a group of UN international experts published a joint call on Nigeria to release Bala. This was a significant high-profile intervention.
Bala has not been heard from since the day of his arrest. His wife, Amina, recently commented to The Guardian, “At this point, I’m not even begging for his release, I just want his proof of life.”
Soyinka’s letter follows a global campaign for Bala’s release spearheaded by Humanists International, the representative body of the humanist movement, of which Bala is a member.
Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, said:
“Mubarak Bala has been detained for long enough. For 100 days our colleague and friend has been held captive, without charge or access to his lawyer, in what can only be perceived at this point as a flagrant violation of his human rights. Our calls remain unchanged, release him immediately and unconditionally.”
The letter, published by Humanists International today, begins: “I write to you today, on this day, the one hundredth day of your detention in an undisclosed location without access to your lawyers, your wife, or your newborn son.”
He continues, “As a human rights activist, you have sought to promote freedom of belief and expression and grown to serve as President of the noble institution that is the Humanist Association of Nigeria.
Despite the dangers, you have stood firm in your convictions and true to your values. You have lived. You have stood against the tide of religious imperialism. You have fought for all Humanity, to ensure a better, fairer, world for all. You have not sought to appease those that treasure scrolls. You have not bowed to pressure to revere their unseen deities.”
Drawing parallels to his own experience in prison, Soyinka adds: “I imagine you pacing your cell, just as I have done. Feeling with each passing day, the added strain. But I know too, that with each passing day you will reach further into your reserves – reserves that you have always thought finite – and discover strength of which you had never dreamed.”
Leo Igwe, Chairman of Humanist Association of Nigeria and Founder of AfAW (Advocacy for Alleged Witches), said:
“The 100 days of detention of Mubarak Bala without a formal charge or access to a lawyer is a scandalous indication of the sordid extent that the authorities in Nigeria could go to subvert the rule of law in order to appease religious fanatics and state complicity in the persecution and oppression of minorities.”
Soyinka closes, “I write today to tell you that you are not alone, there is a whole community across the globe that stands beside you and will fight for you. We will not rest until you are free and safe.”
Humanists International fears that Bala is being targeted solely for having exercised his rights to freedom of belief and freedom of expression, which are protected under the Nigerian Constitution, and under international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.
International efforts to secure his release and safety remain ongoing.
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