Legal Restrictions on Thought & Expression in Pakistan, Egypt, Thailand, and Bahrain

March 14, 2016
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm





Rafia Zakaria, Pakistan
Pakistani-American author, journalist, and lawyer

Emad Shahin, Egypt
Visiting professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service

Matar Ebrahim Matar, Bahrain
Former Bahraini MP, activist, & former NED Reagan-Fascell Fellow

Khorapin Phuaphansawat, Thailand
Doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst


Robert Quinn
Executive Director, Scholars at Risk

About the Event

In a number of countries, counter-terrorism, blasphemy, sedition and similar laws are increasingly used to restrict free inquiry and expression, resulting in a shrinking academic and societal space for dialogue. Wrongful prosecutions under these laws not only threaten the well-being of targeted individuals, but undermine the quality of academic work and public discourse and deny everyone in society the benefits of expert knowledge, scientific and creative progress, and free expression.
These laws are often defended as reasonable restrictions on violent or anti-social conduct or as appropriate expressions of national or cultural prerogatives. In practice they are used to restrict thought, punish expression, and intimidate individuals and society generally. Panelists from Pakistan, Egypt, Bahrain, and Thailand will discuss how these laws affect their work and research.

About the Speakers

Rafia Zakaria is an author attorney and political philosopher. Her latest book is “The Upstairs Wife; An Intimate History of Pakistan” which is a feminist re-telling of the story Pakistan told through the voices of its women. Rafia is a regular columnist for Dawn (Pakistan) and Al Jazeera, her work appears regularly in The Nation (US), The New Republic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon, The New York Times Book Review and various other publications. She is currently working on a book focusing on the philosophy and aesthetics of the Veil for the Object Lessons Series from Bloomsbury Literary. Rafia is the first Muslim American woman to be elected to the Board of Amnesty International USA where she served two consecutive terms. She serves as the Pakistan Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA and is Pakistan Country Monitor for Scholars At Risk.

Emad Shahin is a visiting professor at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics. He is professor of public policy, The American University in Cairo (on leave) and has taught in leading universities in the United States including Harvard and Notre Dame. His research interests include Comparative Politics, Democracy and Political Reform in Muslim societies, Islam and Politics, and Political Economy of the Middle East, subjects on which he has authored, co-authored and co-edited six books and more than 50 scholarly publications.

Matar Ebrahim Matar is a former member of parliament who served as Bahrain’s youngest MP representing its largest constituency. In February 2011, along with 18 other members from his al-Wefaq political party, he resigned from parliament to protest the regime’s crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators. During the Feb. 14 uprising, he served as a major spokesman for the pro-democracy movement. Matar was subsequently arbitrarily detained, and, after his release, left Bahrain for exile in the United States. In 2012, he received the “Leaders for Democracy Award” from the Project on Middle Democracy (POMED).

Khorapin Phuaphansawat is currently a PhD student at the department of political science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is writing her dissertation on the Redshirt mass political movement in Thailand, and her research interests include Thailand’s political conflicts, power and resistance through language and symbols, and the lèse-majesté law. She completed her undergraduate degree at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, and her master’s degree at University of Tokyo, Japan.

Robert Quinn is the founding Executive Director of the Scholars at Risk Network, based at New York University. Mr. Quinn currently serves on the Council of the Magna Charta Observatory, based in Bologna, Italy; the Scientific Committee of Pax Academica, an online journal on academic freedom in Africa published by CODESRIA from Dakar, Senegal; and as a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Program in Washington, DC. He received an A.B. cum laude from Princeton in 1988, a J.D. cum laude from Fordham in 1994, and an honorary doctorate from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2010.

This event is co-sponsored by the Scholars at Risk Network.