Raif Badawi: Nobel laureates' letter to Saudi academics

We write out of concern that the fabric of international cooperation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society

Dear Professor Chameau,

When the new 'King Abdullah University of Science and Technology' was inaugurated in 2009 it was recognised as a visionary attempt to 'rekindle science in the Islamic world'. To mark the significance of the occasion, His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia invited heads of state and Nobel laureates to participate. The undersigned continue to take a profound and sympathetic interest in this visionary undertaking.

As members of the international scientific and scholarly community we owe it to KAUST to assist it in becoming a leading institution for education and research. All such academies have the right to assistance from others, world-wide, and everyone is heavily dependent on receiving that assistance.

We write out of concern that the fabric of international cooperation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society. We have no doubt that members of KAUST share that concern, aware that the cruel sentence passed, for example, on Mr. Raif Badawi who established a forum for open discussion, sent a shock around the world. We take real hope from the fact that the government of Saudi Arabia, responding to international outcry, is re-considering that sentence.

 

It is in this context of a new willingness to listen to pleas on behalf of tolerance that we write to you today. We are confident that influential voices in KAUST will be heard arguing for the freedom to dissent, without which no institution of higher learning can be viable. The time is ripe for new thinking after millions in Paris, supported by the government of Saudi Arabia, demonstrated on behalf of minority views. We are aware that change comes by degrees, but we write at this time since it seems, a mere five years into KAUST's history, to be a crucial time for KAUST. The undersigned friends of KAUST will be there to support you in asserting the values of freedom that we are all agreed are essential to the future of a University in this twenty first century, and that will determine the success of the extraordinary venture which you lead.

Sincerely,

Martin Chalfie             Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, US
John Coetzee                Nobel Laureate, Literature, Australia/South Africa
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji      Nobel Laureate, Physics, France
Richard Ernst                          Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Switzerland
Gerhard Ertl                             Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Germany
Shelly Glashow                        Nobel Laureate, Physics, US
Dudley Herschbach    Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, US
Roald Hoffmann                     Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, US
Brian Josephson                      Nobel Laureate, Physics, UK
Martin Karplus                        Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, US
Harold Kroto                          Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, UK/US
Yuan Lee                                Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Taiwan/US
Rudy Marcus                          Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Canada/US
John Polanyi                            Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Canada
Richard Roberts                      Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, US
John Sulston                            Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, UK
Jack Szostak                            Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, US
Eric Wieschaus                        Nobel Laureate, Physiology or Medicine, US

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