Opening Night | Reclaiming Space | May 2, 2019 | 7.30pm-9pm


Speakers: Rafida Ahmed Bonya, Farah Barqawi, Selma Ablak, Shahzoda Nazarova and Marriët Schuurman

Moderator: Sahar Shirzad

More information see below




Reclaiming Space: A Dialogue on Courageous Civilians Challenging Oppression

This year’s theme of the Freedom Book Fair is “Reclaiming Space”.
Human rights defenders play an indispensable role in societies around the world. As journalists, lawyers, artists, academics, NGO-workers, and simply concerned individuals they are monitoring repressive regimes and rogue companies, reporting the truth about corruption and abuse to the international media and campaigning for social and political change. They mobilize communities, act as mediators and build bridges to prevent or end violent conflict.

However, their work is not without risk. In fact, the space for civil society actors to freely express themselves, speak out and participate in decision making is in severe decline globally. Civil society is under attack by both state and non-state actors. In many countries, the above mentioned activists are being threatened, harassed offline and online, arrested and sometimes even killed.

Regardless of these threats human rights defenders find the courage to continue their work. They are the people on which societies depend for a free and democratic future and they deserve all our support. So: how are they working? What are their strategies to reclaim space for ordinary citizens to speak out, voice their concerns and participate in society when their space is occupied by state, army, intelligence, police and non-state extremist forces? And how can we support these courageous individuals in their mission to reclaim their legitimate space in society?

We will focus in this discussion on the current situations in Tajikistan, Bangladesh and Nicaragua. But we will also take a critical look at the trends in our own Dutch society. And we will ask human rights ambassador Marriët Schuurman how the Netherlands operates in their support for free expression worldwide.


Marriët Schuurman (Human Rights Ambassador Netherlands)
Farah Barqawi (Writer, performer, editor, Palestine/Syria/Egypt)
Selma Ablak (Platform ZijN, The Netherlands)
Thelma Brenes & Chandreyi Guharay (SOSNicaragua-Holanda)
Shahzoda Nazarova (Writer, editor from Tajikistan)
Rafida Ahmed Bonya (writer, actvist from Bangladesh)
Moderator: Jakob de Jonge (director The Hague Peace Projects)

19:30-19:40  Welcome (Fatma Bulaz, Programme Coordinator Freedom Book Fair)
19:40-19:50  Q&A with Marriët Schuurman
19:50-20:00  Opening photo exhibition Exhibition: Freedom of Stories Q&A with photographers
20:00-21:00 Discussion Reclaiming Space (Jakob de Jonge)
21:00-21:45   Jazz for Syria

Entrance is free! Reservations recommended.

Additional information


May 2




Panel Discussion


19:30 – 21:00