Voices of Freedom: A Four Freedoms Audio Project

Presented in partnership by:
Four Freedoms Park Conservancy and The Institute for International Education—Scholar Rescue Fund.

This project is experienced in the forecourt of FDR Four Freedoms State Park

Newly remastered selections of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s January 6th, 1941 congressional address—known as the Four Freedoms Speech—plays at the presidential monument along with narratives from scholars displaced from their homelands through war and individual persecution.

Please explore the texts of these narratives below.

Dr Amna Afreen

Dr Amna Afreen

Bio

Dr. Amna Afreen holds a Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the University of Karachi. She is the protégée of the late liberal Muslim scholar Muhammad Shakil Auj who was assassinated by extremists in Karachi in 2014. As she accompanied Auj to the Iranian Cultural Center where he was to be honored, gunmen fired on their car, fatally injuring Auj and wounding Dr. Afreen. Fearing for her safety and that of her family, she fled Pakistan for the United States in January 2015. IIE-SRF fellowships awarded later in 2015 supported fellowship appointments at Harvard University, Georgetown University, and the International Institute of Islamic Thought where Dr. Afreen continued her research on religious pluralism and Islamic reform as well as her translation and analysis of the work of her mentor. She is presently a teacher in Maryland and recently published a book titled Curriculum Reform in Pakistan: The Need for Integration and Appreciation of Diversity.



Narrative / Transcript

My name is Dr. Amna Afreen, and I’m from Pakistan. I did a Ph.D. in Islamic studies from University of Karachi. I was born in Karachi—I don’t mind saying—in 1972. We belonged to a lower middle class family. If you are from upper class, you can go to concerts. You can have male friends. You don’t have to cover your head. You can have all the freedoms of life. I don’t believe that women should cover their heads, but I still cover my head because it reminds me, no matter where I am, I belong to that class and I’m not ashamed of it. 

I feel like if this is the only life I have, I have every right to enjoy and learn everything that I can, and to broad my perspective and grow my intellect. It’s the one life you have! If you have seven lives, like I wish we had—we don’t know! So as far as we know, this is the life we have. So why should I not enjoy every part of it, every bit of it?

Sometimes they say, Oh, he’s wearing blue nail polish. And I said, okay, if it’s a boy, why not? Every soul has a right to explore what they like, and what they don’t.

Recently, the government of Pakistan has made a law that you cannot say or write anything against the military. So how can you do research? It researcher needs freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech. If you don’t have that, you cannot do research.

So, you know, I’m a teacher. Quality education is every child’s right. So when a child is born, in every religion—whether is Islam, Christianity, Hinduism—they always say, “oh, a child is a blessing to the community.” But if that child is born to a poor class, it’s also a blessing to the whole community. So that child has every right to quality education, no matter where the child is born. And if they have quality education, they would have the chance to make their lives better. They would have the motivation. It is the job of government to work for the poor people.

Dr. Omar Sadr

Dr. Omar Sadr

Bio

Dr. Omar Sadr is a political scientist and public intellectual who researches issues of pluralism, democratization, and governance in contemporary Afghanistan. He holds a Ph.D. from South Asian University in India, where his doctoral research applied theories of multiculturalism to the governance and integration of diversity in Afghanistan. He also hosts the Negotiating Ideas Podcast where he discusses thoughts related to rights, democracy, and pluralism with scholars. Dr. Sadr applied for IIE-SRF support in July 2021 from Kabul, where he feared targeting as a vocal critic of the Taliban as the group gained territory. Awarded IIE-SRF support in August 2021, he is currently undertaking a fellowship appointment at the University of Pittsburgh.



Narrative / Transcript

My name is Omar Sadr. Currently, I am a research scholar at the University of Pittsburgh, where I joined following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

The moment of loss is, probably for most of us, so fast that we may not realize that, Oh, I have lost something. I have lost my own home. Many things that were there for me, let’s say, a library that I had. Let’s say I had a job, a stable job. A society was there and defined and provided meaning for many of our lives. So a sense of exile is like that.

Afghanistan is now sinking in a huge humanitarian catastrophe. I think that’s not what people deserve there, and that’s a question of millions of people. So I think this is a moral project for all of us as a humanity to to contribute to.

A peaceful society will come first. A right to peace. People who are living in a perpetual conflict, perpetual violence, no matter what, they can’t access basic human rights. They are deprived of almost everything. They are deprived of education, health care, food safety and many more.

Second, of course, any kind of mechanism which empowers people and provides them capacity. That includes rights, education, basic access to health care—universal health care, I mean. Freedom from poverty, which also requires governments to have minimum universal welfare system. These enable people to empower themselves to access and enjoy their agency.

In Western societies, we take it for granted because we enjoy freedom on everyday basis. Imagine that the women are not allowed to move freely out of their houses. Imagine that they don’t have access to education. Even the dignity of human being is questioned here.

I think freedom of speech is very fundamental because that is what defines as as a human beings. It’s quite distinct from many other forms of freedom. It could happen through writing, through music or through film. Through painting, through debate, through journalism. If you do not allow a human being to express themselves, it’s impossible for them to have a normal life.

One of the core issues that I think we should deeply consider is that in a modern, developed, stable state like United States or many other in the West, we most of the time take most of these freedoms and rights for granted. This is a modern, advanced world. Violation of rights happens everywhere, anywhere, at any moment. And hence, wherever we are, we have to struggle, I think.

Venezuelan Scholar

Venezuelan Scholar

Bio

This scholar of management and applied economics holds a Ph.D. in applied economics from an anonymous university. With over two decades of experience at one of Venezuela’s public universities, the scholar taught undergraduate and graduate courses and coordinated a major research center, through which she led and consulted on projects with a public institution responsible for the economy and finances of Venezuela. The scholar was unable to continue her academic work in Venezuela, citing limited funding for university research, a shortage of academic resources, and a climate of fear created by the government to stifle professors’ and students’ freedom of expression. Awarded IIE-SRF fellowships in 2019 and 2022, the scholar has undertaken an appointment at a university in the United States, where she is conducting research and delivering seminars to undergraduate students on Venezuelan economics and urban planning.



Narrative / Transcript

Spanish

Yo nací en un estado andino de Venezuela. Creo que muchos académicos que hicieron vida conmigo profesionalmente comparten la idea de que siempre hicimos una vida la más hermosa en la universidad. Y ahora que estamos en una situación completamente distinta. Lo que lamento es que ahora los jóvenes no tienen esas posibilidades. Venezuela no es ahora un país para jóvenes.

Yo podría decir que mucha gente, casi toda la gente, tienen un temor profundo por algo. Muy profundo y, a veces, muchos temores al mismo tiempo. El temor de no tener que comer, no tener donde vivir. Cómo haces asistir de forma sanitaria o de salud? Temen por sus hijos, temen por sus ancianos. Temen por su propia vida.

Aún así, creo que sienten temores, temores de que eso les sea quitado lo poco que tiene ser quitado. Arrebatado en cualquier momento. Porque parece que no hay como una libertad de poder pensar que eso, que lo poco que has logrado se pueda mantener en el tiempo, como que esa sensación de que vas a perderlo en algún momento. 

Cómo sería una vida sin temor? Para mí, sería una vida donde pueda tener cerca a toda mi familia. Estuviéramos en un lugar seguro, todos tuviéramos trabajo, un lugar donde vivir y nuestros a personas que son mayores pudieran tener servicios para su salud, para sus cuidados, donde los jóvenes de la familia pudieran tener acceso a una vida maravillosa, cómo todos los jóvenes merecen. Y donde podamos jubilarnos con tranquilidad y con seguridad, de que primero de que hemos hecho las cosas bien y de que por eso nos merecemos estar en un lugar tranquilo y seguro. Eso sería mi ideal de vida sin miedo. 

Creo que todavía en mi caso particular, quisiera hacer más cosas para poder ayudar un poquito en eso. Una pequeña grano de arena, aportar algo. No sé cómo a veces, se siente uno un poco un poco abrumado y desorientado, pero otras veces lo veo muy claro.

Creo que si todos hacemos un poco es trillado esto que voy a decir, pero es así. Si todos hacemos un poquito, probablemente algún día tengamos algo.

English

I was born in the Andes in Venezuela. I think that many academics who came up with me professionally share the idea that we always had the most beautiful life at the university. And now we are in a completely different situation. What I regret is that now young people do not have those possibilities we had. Venezuela is not now a country for young people.

I could say that many people, almost everyone in my country, have a deep fear of something. Very deep, and sometimes many fears at the same time. The fear of not having enough to eat, not having a place to live. Not having healthcare. They fear for their children, they fear for their elders. They fear for their own lives.

I think they feel fear that the little they have will be taken away from them at any time. It seems that there is no such thing as a freedom when you think like that, that the little you have achieved cannot be kept, when you feel you are going to lose it at any moment.

What would a life without fear be like? For me, it would be a life where I could have my whole family close. We would be in a safe place, all have jobs, a place to live, and our elderly would be cared for. Young people could have access to a wonderful life—as all young people deserve—and we could retire with peace of mind and with the certainty that we have done things well and that is why we deserve to be in a calm and safe place. This would be my ideal life without fear.

I think that in my case, I would like to do more to be able to help achieve that. Contribute a small grain of sand. I don’t know how sometimes—it can feel overwhelming—but other times I see it very clearly.

I think that if we all do a little—what I am going to say is trite, but it is so. If we all do a little bit, we will probably achieve something one day.

The Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) is the only global program that arranges, funds, and supports fellowships for threatened and displaced scholars at partnering higher education institutions worldwide. Founded in 2002, it builds upon IIE’s century-long history of assisting university students and scholars under threat. Over the past 20 years, IIE-SRF has supported more than 1,000 professors, researchers, and public intellectuals from 60 countries, placing them in academic positions at over 450 host institutions in 53 countries. This includes the brave and talented scholars who are featured in the Voices of Freedom installation. Learn more at www.scholarrescuefund.org.