This year the winner of the Gordon Ross Humanist of the Year award goes to Nigerian Human Rights Activist and President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala.
Humanist Society Scotland’s annual award recognises individuals whose efforts to promote Humanism and its values are exceptional. Mubarak Bala’s efforts to promote Humanism in Nigeria have cost him his liberty.
In April 2020 Mubarak was arrested following accusations that a Facebook post that he made had insulted the Prophet Mohammed (punishable in Nigeria by up to two years in prison). In the intervening 255 days the treatment of Mubarak has fallen far short of acceptable (and legal) standards. He has faced death threats, he has been denied access to his legal team, he has faced procedural postponement after procedural postponement, and he remains in custody without charge and untried nine months after his arrest.
Humanists International, who have coordinated Mubarak’s legal defence fund, write that his detention,
…violates his rights to liberty, fair trial, freedom of thought and expression, and freedom of movement as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law.
We want to make it absolutely clear how committed Mubarak Bala is to supporting his fellow humanists in Nigeria, and to creating a country that is safe for non-religious people. This is the second time that Mubarak has been held against his will because of his atheist views. In 2014 he was held in a psychiatric hospital for 18 days at the behest of his father (formerly a senior member of the Islamic religious authorities) after Mubarak renounced Islam and declared himself an atheist. Still he continued to speak out for those with non-religious viewpoints, and became President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. This has cost him nine months in prison, separated from his wife and young child.
Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, Fraser Sutherland, said,
I am deeply honoured to count Mubarak Bala amongst my international humanist colleagues, and my hope is that this award helps to garner the support of humanists in Scotland and contributes towards the unconditional and immediate release of Mubarak.
Humanists International and Mubarak’s legal team were working to get word of the award to Mubarak, and the award was warmly accepted on Mubarak’s behalf by Nigerian human rights activist and former Western and Southern African representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Leo Igwe, who said,
I am deeply honoured to accept the Humanist of the Year Award on behalf of fellow Nigerian humanist, Mubarak Bala. I thank the Humanist Society of Scotland for this thoughtful gesture. Bala has been detained for months without trial for freely and peacefully expressing his right to opinion and belief. At a time when the Nigerian authorities are showing no signs of releasing him – and some fanatics are calling for his murder – this award signifies hope, light and humanity.Leo Igwe
Emma Wadsworth-Jones, Humanists at Risk Coordinator at Humanists International, added:
If the international community needed further evidence of the dangers that humanists face in Nigeria, they need look no further than the plight of Mubarak Bala. Repeatedly harassed for peacefully expressing his humanist beliefs. And ultimately detained without charge in order to silence him. Let us be his voice.
Humanists International are deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Mubarak. Please support them as they work to free Mubarak Bala and have all charges against him dropped.
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