On Saturday 31 August at 5.30pm, a group of speakers and guests from the Celebrating Dissent festival will hold a protest demonstration with red balloons on Leidseplein. The demonstration pays tribute to freethinkers, heretics and blasphemers; that is, everyone who has been killed or persecuted for religious reasons. The balloons carry the names of 160 people; just a small cross-section of all the victims of religiously motivated violence. The names of victims will also be chalked on the pavement as part of the demonstration. Everyone is invited to join.
One of the people to be remembered is the Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah, a follower of Ahmadi Islam. He was fatally stabbed in front of his shop in March 2016 by the Sunni Muslim Tanveer Ahmed, who stated that Shah had offended Islam by claiming to be the prophet in a YouTube video.
Another balloon will carry the name of Els Borst. The former minister of health was found dead in her home in February 2014, with 41 stab wounds. The perpetrator claimed that he had been called by God to commit the crime. Borst was responsible for the euthanasia act, which the killer disapproved of.
The demonstration will start at 5.30pm at De Balie. From here, the group will walk with balloons to Leidseplein, where they will stop to pay tribute to the victims. The group will return to De Balie at 6pm. The balloons will remain on display in De Balie throughout the duration of the festival.
From 31 August through 1 September, women, men and members of the LGBT+ community from various countries, religions and cultures will convene to celebrate freedom with theatre, lectures, poetry, film, stand-up comedy and conversation during Celebrating Dissent. Virtually all the speakers at this festival are exposed to death threats every day, or have been banished from their home country, or can no longer move around in public without personal protection, on account of who they are or how they think. Celebrating Dissent is a shout-out to everyone who is fighting for universal rights and the freedom of expression. Participants include Maryam Namazie, Inna Shevchenko, Shabana Rehman, Elzbieta Podlesna, Zineb El Rhazoui, Mineke Schipper and many others.