More than 50 freedom fighters from 30 different countries converged on De Balie last weekend for the festival Celebrating Dissent. Over 1000 people attended the 15 programmes full of theatre, poetry, music and dialogue. Almost all of the speakers are banished from their home country, and/or persecuted and threatened in the name of religion. This weekend they met at De Balie to celebrate the freedom to not believe. And the whole world could watch the proceedings. The programmes were watched via De Balie’s live stream in more than 65 countries.

There is always an attempt to silence us, but now we can be seen. This festival is an opportunity of a lifetime to meet the most interesting people out there. People who have stood up in the most difficult circumstances.” – Maryam Namazie

The Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema opened the festival with the words "Heretics, infidels, renegades - welcome to Amsterdam!" She then read an excerpt from the text with which freethinker Baruch de Spinoza was banished from Amsterdam in 1656. She continued:

I hope this good old piece of theocratic prose will get you in the mood to celebrate dissent. This text displays some universal aspects of oppressors: much hate and a complete absence of a sense of humor." – Femke Halsema

Halsema’s opening address was followed by impressive speeches by Inna Shevchenko, Maryam Namazie and Taslima Nasreen. This programme, along with all other programmes of the festival, can be viewed via https://debalie.nl/verdieping/#de_balie_tv.

A balloon protest was held on Saturday evening at nearby Leidseplein, with speakers and visitors carrying red balloons as a silent tribute to all victims of religious oppression (see photograph). The festival ended with arabsounds by the Iranian DJ Masri. Check our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for our reports of the festival weekend.

Photo credits: De Balie / Jan Boeve 


De Balie produces programmes about art, culture and politics. Over the span of 35 years, De Balie has become a leading venue for cutting-edge debates, films and art projects. De Balie works with a permanent team of professional programme makers who aim to stimulate public debate and to offer a platform to progressive thinkers and new ideas. For more information and the full programme, visit: www.debalie.nl. 


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