An Open Letter to the Indian Authorities

Mister Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Madam President of the Congress Party Sonia Gandhi, we write you to implore India to continue to protect Taslima Nasrin.

We are citizens of the world, intellectuals, writers, attached to women’s rights and to freedom of expression. Your party leads the largest secular democracy of the Asian subcontinent and even of the world. A rare and precious exception. After years of wandering, Taslima Nasrin, a Bengali writer, found refuge there, at the same time as she rediscovered the pleasure of living in a country where she could be read in her language. But while she thought herself finally safe, she must once more suffer the hatred and rage of fanatics who will never forgive a woman for being free and for saying so.

On several occasions these last months, tens of thousands of enraged people marched towards her writings, called for her head and burned dolls in her effigy. Your country protected her against death, but no longer wishes to protect her against intimidation. Her Indian visa will expire the 17th of August, and the highest authorities have let it be known that it will not be renewed. Taslima Nasrin will thus have to leave the country, her refuge, and again take up the exile’s way. That which boils down to vindicating the fanatics and to punishing her in depriving her of the right to live in this country, yours, that she loves and that she chose. That signal would be terrible.

We are aware that her freedom of expression, about women and about religions, constitutes a challenge for a country traversed by passions between communities. We do not believe that those passions can be appeased in giving credence to extremists. We implore you not to cede to their blackmail and to violence. Do not vindicate them. Do not punish Taslima Nasrin on account of their intolerance.

Your country knows better than anyone the importance of defending those who dare to disobey peacefully. Taslima Nasrin is among these disobedients. She represents a hope for all those men and women who dream of peacefully liberating themselves from traditions and beliefs that keep women in a form of segregation. Do not kill that hope. Prove wrong those who believe or make believe that one must be born in Northern country to live and speak freely. Demand that Taslima Nasrin’s visa be renewed.

First signatures in France

Caroline Fourest, journalist ; Catherine Clément, writer ; Darina Al-Joundi, actress ; Brigitte et Tewfik Allal, Manifeste des libertés ; Elisabeth Badinter, writer ; Robert Badinter, senator ; Etienne-Emile Baulieu, professor of medicine ; Denis Baupin, deputy mayor of Paris ; Djemila Benhabib, writer ; Naïma Charaï, regional advisor ; Charb, cartoonist ; Daniel Cohn-Bendit, european deputy ; Alexis Corbière, conseiller of Paris ; Teresa Cremisi, publisher ; Caroline De Haas, Osez le féminisme ! ; Monique Dental, collectif Ruptures ; Olivier Duhamel, academic ; Jeanne Favret-Saada, anthropologist ; Christophe Girard, deputy mayor of Paris ; Jean Glavany, deputy ; Simone Halberstadt Harari, producer ; Razzy Hammadi, national secretary of the socialist party ; Benoît Hamon, speacker of Socialist party ; Jean-François Julliard, general secretary of Reporters Without Borders ; Liliane Kandel, sociologist ; Catherine Kintzler, philosopher ; Bernard-Henri Lévy, philosopher ; Jean-Luc Mélenchon, senator ; Janine Mossuz-Lavau, sociologist ; Olivier Nora, publisher ; Henri Pena-Ruiz, philosopher ; Evelyne Pisier, writer ; Nadja Ringart, sociologist ; Robert Redeker, philosopher ; Elisabeth Roudinesco, psychoanalyst ; Saïd Sadi, algerian deputy ; Boualem Sansal, writer ; Françoise Seligmann, president of honor of the Human right's league ; Coline Serreau, director ; Mohamed Sifaoui, journalist ; Benjamin Stora, historian ; Monique Vézinet, Union des familles laïques ; Martine Aubry, First secretary of the socialist party; Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris.

In UK : Fariborz Pooya (Iranian Secular Society), Maryam Namazie, (One Law for All), Asad Abbas, (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Mahin Alipour, (Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran), Mina Ahadi, (International Committee against Stoning and Execution)

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To write to Smt Sonia Gandhi 10 Janpath New Delhi 110011

To write to Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Government of India The Prime Minister's office South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 101.