Freedom... We do not know it unless we practice it

Freedom... We do not know it unless we practice it

In 2018, we commissioned 51 authors from 25 countries to write essays exploring ideas about freedom for The Freedom Papers, a publication produced in partnership with Gutter Magazine. Five of these essays, including the one featured below, were commissioned by young programmers aged 8-14 who were working with us as part of the Year of Young People 2018. Read on for Joud Al-Mabaydin's essay, and visit to purchase a copy of The Freedom Papers.

Translated from Arabic by Loes Ansems 

In the Qur’an, the Lord of the Worlds says: ‘We sent Our Messengers with clear evidence (to support their truthfulness), and sent with them the Book and the Balance so that people would maintain justice.’

One of the pillars of Islamic history asks: ‘When did you enslave people if they were born free?’

It is the word that every rational person can agree upon, and can accept every heavenly and earthly message that it has come with.

It is the word for which people sacrificed their blood.

It is the word that cannot be divided in two: it should either be absolute or be left alone in the search for something else.

It is the word that resembles water, which, if left alone, would renew itself, but if imprisoned, would rot and start to stink.

Al-Hurya –Freedom’ …

H: Haq, the rights of all people do not vanish before the law

R: Raqi, an improvement in dealing with difference

Y: Yasmine, Jasmine clings to the walls, declaring the end of the border between the lovers

A: Howa, air moves the spring petals to spread their scent

Mandela, who experienced slavery in all its forms said: ‘Freedom cannot be given in doses; the person is either free or not free – not half free.’

The Revolutionary Che Guevara, said: ‘My true love, which is the torch that burns within the millions of the world's helpless people… is the torch of freedom, truth and justice.’

True freedom will not be realised if the human being is its sole purpose. The human that lives happily and trustfully with others causes others to feel the same way in return.

The late King Hussein Bin Talal stated that: ‘Man is the most precious thing we have.’ These words serve as a faultless compass, because if we were to invest in man, we would rise to the heights freely…

Here in the countryside of the Arab world, close to the pulse of freedom that people desired, bullets kidnapped freedom when people raised the slogan of ‘free speech’. However, the tools of oppression were more brutal than children’s nightmares, and so the children’s body parts littered, women’s lives scattered, and the dreams of men in the hope for a better tomorrow disappeared. The night became long, with no start and end.

There are millions of children in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Myanmar and Palestine who were robbed of their childhood, freedom, and dreams. There are millions of refugees who carry terrifying stories and tales of torment. There are millions of innocent faces that left behind their smiles and settled for streams of tears. The tragedy of asylum around the world makes freedom an afterthought, something that falls into the realm of luxury.

How can a child who was cut into pieces by a rocket or a bomb on his way to school think about freedom? How can a girl think about freedom if she was blinded by the inhalation of poisonous gases?

The war and injustice practised on humans around the world makes us ashamed of ourselves and demands that we end these wars, and support our brothers in their war.

I cry for the freedom of those millions who fled from the countries where they lived in order to save their lives and the lives of their children and as a result did not know others for many years. I cry for the freedom of those who left behind their money, homes and land, and whose eyes are crying and hearts are bleeding. Their tragedy does not end there, as a new tragedy begins with many breakdowns, no less painful than the first tragedy.

There is no solution to the refugee crisis, which is deteriorating every day. Despite the large number of conferences, in which big and rich countries make false promises, the crisis is now worsening, as the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide approaches 66 million.

We need to stand together and create change that prevents these tragedies from happening again. We need to bring the smiles back to our children’s faces.

Every time the word freedom comes out of the wreckages of blood, Ahmad Shawqi’s verses tell us that there is nothing that can compete with the homeland:

Two birds in the Hijaz came into a garden,

With trees, but dewless and without beauty.

Twittering to each other on the branches of the trees in the early morning.

The passing wind from Yemen greeted them and said:

‘You are two pearls in a despicable container.

I have been around Sana, in the shade of Aden,

Luxuriant trees so large as if from the time of Dhu Yazan.

With seeds like sugar and water like milk and honey.

No bird has seen or heard of it without being enthralled.

Let me carry you there and we will arrive within an hour.’

The wiser of the two birds said to the wind:

‘O Wind, you are a traveller, without a place to call home,

Equate as you may Yemen with paradise,

But beyond equal remains the homeland!’

Freedom remains a requirement for every human being; however, it is a necessity for childhood. For there is no childhood without freedom. And chains render childhood an impossibility. They are an infringement on children’s souls more so than their bodies.

The sayings of the great writer Mustafa Lutfi Manfalouti on freedom remind us that:

‘If a man knew the value of the freedom that has been stolen from him, and understood the reality of the bonds holding his body and mind, he would kill himself, like the nightingale that has been caught by a hunter and confined in a cage, for that would be preferable to a life in which he could see not a single ray of freedom, nor any breath of freedom come to him…

Freedom is a sun that shines within every soul. Anyone who is deprived of it lives in deepest darkness, unbroken from the darkness of the womb to the darkness of the grave…’

If we are to achieve freedom in this world, we must know that religions have helped men live for dignity and love, not for murder, and that religious freedom should be absolutely guaranteed.

We must realise that the teacher, the doctor, and the soldier constitute the pillars of freedom for any people. If their lives are honourable, the homeland is honoured.

We must judge men and women solely on their accomplishments, and not differentiate between them on the basis of gender.

The origin of which we are so proud is the source of our love for things. It does not manifest itself in bragging arrogantly.


Freedom is and will remain the only requirement for attaining all that is good. By depriving people of freedom, all the evils will start coming to the earth. Freedom will only be granted to those looking for it and those who think of it as the air that they breathe. There are of course those that love life even if it is without freedom. In the words of Plato: ‘If the sky rained freedom, slaves would carry umbrellas’. These people are dead, but do not feel it.

Two years ago, I wrote my first novel entitled Jasmine Wound, which dealt with the story of a girl who suffered from horrific wars in the cities of Raqqa, Daraa, Mosul and Sinzaz. The book describes how the girl lost her family because of the war and how she was robbed of her freedom. The book recounts how her brothers gave their lives for the price of freedom through escaping on a rubber boat from the city of Izmir in Turkey and how the boat sank, which left the girl on the shores of Greece. Nevertheless, after she lost everything, she found her freedom.

I am Joud Al-Mabaydin, speaking to you from Jordan, from the southern city Karak to be specific, where oppressors broke at its fortress’ door. My generation is not the generation of the future, as the politicians say, but we are the generation of today and tomorrow. We have been free since birth; our tongue is a bold pen that is not afraid to say the truth. In our right hand, we carry a rose that we present to every person who respects man for his humanity, and in our left hand, we hold a stone with which we fight against injustice and oppression.

We are born free and we will live free and die free. For us, freedom is like the gift of heaven.

The message of freedom and peace comes from heaven. We should all look at the sky and be apostles of peace.


Copyright © 2018, Joud Al-Mabaydin. All rights reserved.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund through Creative Scotland.

More writing