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'Freedom is what one wants their freedom to be'

In Freedom Stories we share the freedom stories of our students and staff, in honour of Liberation Day in The Netherlands. Today, we share Leen's story. We asked her, what does freedom mean to you?

Leen Al Massalma is a first year student at LUC. She also works as a student assistant at the communication department of FGGA.

What is freedom?

Freedom is what one wants their freedom to be. Freedom can be tasted in the protest of masses for government change or felt when holding a paint brush against a canvas. On one hand, it is biking through sunny, green fields with a slight breeze; on the other, freedom can be a mathematically calculated index. Freedom is covering as much or as little of the body as one wants to. Freedom is to express one’s identity with respect to others’ and not only be embraced but be actively encouraged and offered the space to shape any aspects of one’s life around it. 

Leen Al Massalma

Hope and beauty

In my home country, Syria, where I was born and raised, freedom can be a difficult topic to tackle- politically, economically, personally. However, until this day it was where my spirit felt the freest. Perhaps because I mostly spent my childhood and early adolescence there; and perhaps because we tend to look back at our past with rose-tinted glasses. Nonetheless, my belief in the resilience, generosity and creativity of the Syrian people has only grown since I left my country six years ago. Whilst our diaspora might be regarded as a ‘crisis’ to some countries and an opportunity for growth to others, it has personally proven to me that the core of the Syrian identity lies in hope and beauty. The core of being Syrian, at home and abroad, is the freedom we set ourselves to see the potential in any environment at all times and reach for it. This sets me free from the stereotypes, ignorance and narrow-mindedness that I sometimes encounter. It has also allowed me to detach from the misleading images my country and people are represented by in global media. Even in the hardest times, Syrians have quickly found the space to laugh, share their culture, start a business, celebrate and create. That itself is a deep source of freedom for me today. 

Freedom, a human need

In fact, true freedom cannot be defined. Each individual freedom story lies in the most basic foundation of being human, of who we are. It has the potential to relate to another story, flourishing into an empathic web. No matter how different our stories are, freedom is a sentiment we all share and can relate to. We have sought it from the second we came into this world: screaming in our first gasp for freedom, the first baby steps, the first mutterings of expression. Essentially, freedoms are not validated by an abstract document dictated by politics and signed by world leaders. Freedom comprises the human instinct - a human need. 

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