On November 9, we will celebrate World Freedom Day, which marks the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the great symbols of freedom from tyranny in all of history.
I vividly recall the day when the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall spread around the world. Though I was living in Kenya at this time, soon to face forced marriage and yet to attain my own freedom from oppression, I still felt a thrill hearing about the triumph of freedom over the communist oppression and tyranny that had engulfed Europe for decades. Perhaps it stirred something in me. It certainly seemed to herald a new era of liberty.
It is hard to believe how much has changed since then. Today, many of us worry and fear that the precious Western freedoms and ideals we have so long benefited from and cherish so much are fading away. I escaped from oppression and tyranny thanks to these ideals—they gave me the priceless gift of freedom. To think of them disappearing from the world saddens me.
Last month I was shocked and horrified by the news of the still-unfolding attack upon Israel, which felt like a confirmation of my worst fears. My heart still breaks for the victims, and it is a terrible reminder of the fragility of our freedoms. You can find my articles and media commentary on this awful conflict here.
The attack brought to mind the many other threats to liberty throughout the world, including here in the U.S.
When I think about the horrific attack on Salman Rushdie last year, I worry that free speech is dying and that the tyrannical ideology of Islamism will triumph.
When I think about the 9 states that have yet to take action against female genital mutilation (FGM) and the 40 states that have failed to take action against child marriage, I fear that women’s rights, one of the crowning glories of the West, might never be fully achieved.
When I hear of discussions being shut down and speakers canceled on college campuses, I feel anxious about whether the spirit of free inquiry can survive among the young.
As my birthday (November 13) approaches, I feel so thankful for the freedoms I have enjoyed, but also deeply worried about their future.
What sort of world will our children and grandchildren inherit? This question worries me the most. As a mother, I want my children to enjoy the rights and freedoms that I have. I don’t want them to find themselves in a world without these freedoms.
But these gloomy thoughts are lightened when I reflect further and remember that there are many reasons for hope—and your support for AHA Foundation’s vital work is chief among them. Thinking about the attack on Israel, or the stabbing of Salman Rushdie, or the heinous abuses of FGM and child marriage reinvigorates my dedication to the precious Western values that are our strongest defense against tyranny of all kinds.
With your support, AHA has continued to support the growth of the anti-Islamist CLARITy Coalition. We have achieved great victories against FGM and child marriage this year—in Washington, Vermont, Connecticut, and Michigan—all while continuing to train hundreds of frontline professionals across our nation to prevent these abuses and to help the survivors of them. We have raised awareness of the continuing danger to girls and women posed by FGM in a groundbreaking new report on the prevalence, distribution, and impact of FGM in the U.S.
We have nurtured young, inquiring minds on college campuses all across our nation through our Critical Thinking Fellowship. And I have engaged with some of the best experts on the planet about free speech in a webinar series throughout the year.
All of this, and much, much more, is down to you. Things are not as dark as I imagine in my lowest moments. Remembering your generosity and commitment fills me with hope again. There are many people dedicated to ensuring that Western freedoms and ideals live and thrive for generations to come—and you are one of those people.
Even as bad news comes in daily from Israel, Ukraine, Iran, and elsewhere, and even as all the problems I mentioned above continue to threaten freedom here in the West, I know that we will win in the end. Western ideals are the surest guarantors of happy, prosperous, and free societies. As I put it in one of my webinars earlier this year:
“Why is freedom valuable?
To me, it is valuable because all other freedoms in a democratic society are meaningless without the freedom of speech.
You cannot have freedom of religion without freedom of speech.
You cannot have the freedom to assemble without freedom of speech.
You cannot have any kind of freedom without the freedom of speech.”
The fundamental importance of free speech is a fact. Without it, no other freedom is possible. The deep human desire for freedom will, I think, ultimately triumph over the darkness. But we need to fight to ensure that it does.
With our liberties under threat on various fronts—from the dangerous ideology of Islamism, oppressive traditions, and illiberalism on campus and beyond—my birthday wish is this: please, keep standing with AHA Foundation as it strives to preserve, protect, and promote Western freedoms and ideals.
Together, we can prevail, and create a legacy of liberty for our children and grandchildren.
Together, we can be a shining beacon of freedom for generations to come!
With deepest gratitude,
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Founder, AHA Foundation