This is the letter I wrote on behalf of Ahmed Mansoor who is held in the United Arab Emirates, his country, in a cell with no bed, no water, no shower for using Twitter in support of human rights, hence “insulting” his government. He faces 10 years and impossibly high financial penalties. This is why he undertook a hunger strike, from which he is very ill. He needs help. He family needs him. His wife and children need him. We need him.
“With great respect, I appeal to the Honorable Authorities of the United Arab Emirates. I have tried to understand why one would jail UAE citizens — the example is Ahmed Mansoor — for exercising their internationally recognized rights to freedom of speech and expression.
A country which protects these freedoms for its citizens wins the respect of its citizens, learns to strengthen its policies in good ways and lessens the need for resistance among the citizenry.
The 18th Prussian philosopher Emanuel Kant argued for an Enlightenment in which all men would learn to think for themselves, an act that requires courage. That would include those ruled and their rulers.
If I understand Kant — and it’s possible I don’t, that would include a Social Contract in which those who govern would grant freedom of expression for all citizens, including themselves. This is understood to already be acceptable for scientists of all sorts. At the same time, all citizens, governed and governing, would accept as part of the Social Contract that legislative stability would be supported by all.
Hence the paradox: freedom of expression based on autonomous being and thought can strengthen the stability of the State.
Kant recognized that the repressive king becomes his own prisoner when he keeps his own citizens prisoners for how they think. One of the principal ideas of the Enlightenment was that freedom of thought and body freed everyone to act rationally and morally.
That is why I respectfully ask you to immediately release all those imprisoned for exercising their freedom of thought and that Ahmed Mansoor specifically be immediately released and given the correct medical attention that will restore him to good health and that he be returned to his family a free man with no lingering penalties. That is what we would wish for our children if they found themselves in his place.
Let him and all others concerned with human rights in the UAE join in a Social Contract with the government which protects the human rights and the freedom to think autonomously for all citizens and their government, while respecting social stability.
Sterling Bennett, writer