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Do we live in freedom? I am trying to find a clear answer that explains what is going on around us and whether we can consider ourselves living freely. With universal laws and conventions that govern freedoms around the world, freedom in its general sense is that a person has the power, right, and disposition to speak and think as he wants without any restrictions or limits. Where man seeks his freedom in all walks of life, he seeks psychologically to face the consequences, fears, anxieties and difficulties, and religiously acquitted, and socially remove the power and impediments imposed by the surrounding society. He seeks philosophically to take away all that deprives him of his freedom, to make his decisions, to evaluate his choices, and to reject the authority of the strong over the weak who deprive him of his rights. Article 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and promulgated by the General Assembly resolution on 10 December 1948, states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. “

The importance of freedom in our lives is manifest in several points: the exercise of the individual’s abilities in the place of the choice of his own volition. The right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to hold opinions without interference, to seek, receive and impart information and ideas “to others, by any means and regardless of frontiers “. It extends to the organization of social life and the creation of harmony among the groups of society in order to achieve happiness and eliminate injustice.

Freedom has many concepts. The concept of freedom of the media is to give the media and sources of communication the freedom to work in political and civil society. The term “freedom of the media” stems from the traditional idea that the press can be disseminated through electronic media such as radio, television and the Internet. Freedom of information is essential in democratic societies, where individuals and people rely on sufficient information to make decisions on general issues, regard them as an outlet for public debate and opinion, and public freedom of expression, public education, and government control.

There is also so-called social freedom. This concept refers to interaction and relationships between persons or groups, so that individuals allow each other to act in certain ways provided that their actions do not violate the freedoms and principles of others. There is a difference between a person’s freedom of action as he wishes and restricting his freedom from being subjected to the freedom of others. There is a relationship between freedom and responsibility that can not be ignored. There is no responsibility without freedom, no freedom without responsibility. Freedom is an instinct, it can not be overcome no matter what the restrictions seem to be. It was not seized by law: only a kind of declaration that freedom limits and restrictions and conditions cannot be overcome and when misused be harmful to the individual and society.

There is also freedom of expression including speech and press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, submission of petitions,. This freedom requires not to express in a manner that may discredit, cause panic, create sedition, or incite crime: freedom of speech here refers to the right of people to express their views publicly and without any governmental interference. This is what I saw in the poem “America” by Allen Ginsberg, where the writer talks about America. He describes through his words everything he sees before him within the community or in the newspapers or from the policies of the government which he addressed through his words boldly and freely. They compelled him to write this poem to defend America and without fear of sharing his views in general and highlighting what he sees wrong in America. This is what truly translates the concept of freedom into society, which we can find in America and Europe. We can not find this freedom in the Middle East or the Arab countries, which are dominated by oppressive and dictatorial regimes and where there are no civil, social or political rights for the people.

The concept of political freedom refers to giving citizens or associations freedom that does not conflict with the respect of the government. This freedom is focused on giving individuals and groups the freedom to participate in the political process (the right to vote), freedom of speech and writing, freedom of religion, and freedom of association — whether religious, political or economic. The concept of political freedom has extended to include national self-determination, the demand for economic freedom, freedom from want, and so on.

This is also what is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association” (Article 20.1); “ No one may be compelled to belong to an association” (Article 20.2); “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”(Article 21.3).

Additionally, religious freedom, which means the right to freedom of religion or belief within the human rights system, is the freedom of the individual to profess any religious or non-religious ideas. The struggle for religious freedom has existed for centuries and it has led to many tragic conflicts. Although such conflicts still exist, it can be said that the twentieth century has witnessed progress as some common principles of freedom of religion or belief have been recognized. The United Nations has recognized the importance of religious freedom in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” And the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, recognized the right to freedom of religion or belief, among other rights and freedoms. Article 18 provides for four items in this regard:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This includes freedom to condemn a religion, freedom to profess any religion or belief of his choice, freedom to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and education, individually or collectively, and in public or in private.

2. No one shall be subjected to coercion which would impair his freedom to condemn a religion or his freedom to profess any religion or belief of his choice.

3. The freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief shall be subject only to such limitations as may be necessary to protect public safety, public order, public health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to respect the liberty of parents or guardians when they exist to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in accordance with their own convictions.

The importance of religion and belief has been debated since 1948, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted until 1981, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted without a vote a declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief which is contained in its paragraph (2/2): “In the term of this Declaration, the term ‘intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief’ means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on religion or belief and whose purpose or effect is to impair or to diminish the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis .” Since the freedom of religion and belief and the freedom to practice religious rites are among the pillars that lead to the achievement of the objectives of peace and social justice and to the elimination of colonialism and racial discrimination, as the General Assembly considers, only in its view that the violation of human rights, conscience, religion or belief whatsoever, has brought to the world and humanity wars and pain. With all this magnitude of global interest in freedoms and human rights issued by international bodies and institutions, there is still a very large section of the world that does not respect human rights and practices the most horrible methods of torture and criminality against people and the erosion and restriction of civil liberties at all levels. Many people in the Arab world see these international resolutions as nothing but ink on paper. They are dreams for many and there is no place to apply them in the Arab world. I personally did not live in freedom. I did not understand what freedom meant until I arrived in Europe.

As I understand from discussion with other Syrians, what freedom means in the Arab world and countries where democracy does not exist is disobedience and the realization of desires repressed by dictatorship and regimes. Freedom is not the launching of gestures without appreciating the feelings of others and breaking the pillars of the system and general laws. In a society such as the Arab society, which was dominated by ignorance and where freedom of expression of others was absent, with the absence of societal awareness and without regard to the wishes of others, the concept of freedom was distorted in a terrible way. Freedom is the great gift that liberates peoples from slavery and dictatorship, but it has become a recipe for chaos and rebellion because of inappropriate acts and behaviors and lack of understanding of the controls and responsibility that accompany the exercise of freedom. The abuse of personal freedom is one of the biggest reasons for the spread of chaos, social corruption, cultural deterioration and deepening backwardness if used and misdirected. Likewise, the absence of physical and moral restrictions on freedoms makes it difficult to control the exercise of freedom. It is also difficult to formulate controls capable of controlling freedom and loss of balance in the community. If a person gives himself the right to violate the traffic laws, for example, because he is free, we will expect nothing but a lot of traffic accidents.

The concept of freedom is broad. However different the outlook on its practice, there is one principle: no absolute freedom exists. It remains relative according to several factors, the most important of which is the system of society in which one lives, education and others. In terms of appearance, since birth, we are not free, but freedom is acquired with time. The simplest things we did not choose — our parents, our names our school, and even there are some who did not choose their university specialization. But, in fact, freedom is a kind of practice and perception on the day it comes into our hands. The right to take any decision and in any area: political, practical or personal. On the personal level as well as the community as a whole, we must realize how to live with this freedom properly so that we do not impinge on our own right or on the right of everyone around us. Freedom comes from the self to be reflected on the other. Hence it is of utmost importance to know how to use freedom properly for self-development on the one hand and society on the other, and to be able to free oneself from many restrictions imposed by politics or society itself, although the concept of democracy and freedom of expression are dominant in form but not always in content.

Ehab Badwi

BA student Economics, Politics, and Social Thought

Bard College Berlin, A Liberal Arts University

Youth Representatives of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and founder and CEO of the Syrian Youth Assembly SYA

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