Hatice Cengiz | Helmut Schmidt Lecture 2022 „Speaking up!“

Human rights activist Hatice Cengiz delivers the second Helmut Schmidt Lecture in Berlin

“If you don’t speak, you can’t be heard!”, Helmut Schmidt once said. But he was wrong. Because who is allowed to speak at all and who is listened to is a question of privilege. And all over the world, authoritarian regimes are silencing people who raise their voices. Journalists and human rights activists are being defamed, threatened, disrupted in their work or killed. Fundamental rights, such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, which were unanimously accepted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are in danger. The situation for media professionals has deteriorated worldwide – even in Germany.
Fortunately there are courageous people who are standing up to these threats. One of them is the Turkish human rights activist Hatice Cengiz. Her fiancé, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was murdered on 2 October 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing. But to date, no-one has been held to account. In April 2022, Turkey transferred the court process to Saudi Arabia, effectively ending the proceedings. Since the murder, Hatice Cengiz has dedicated her life to the struggle for press freedom, human rights and justice. For this reason, on 10 November she will give the Helmut Schmidt Lecture 2022 under the title “Speaking up!”.

We can always learn from her dedication. The year 2022 has given us a particular reason to do so. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, governments in Europe and the US have been trying to secure their energy supplies without Russian imports. Politicians such as US President Joe Biden, France's President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have felt the need to meet again with MBS, who had been politically isolated since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

In their coalition agreement, the federal government announced that it would take a values-based approach to Germany’s foreign policy. The agreement says: In a “systemic competition with authoritarian states”, human rights will serve as a compass. This approach is threatening to break down over energy concerns. But values and interests are not contradictions. But values and interests are not contradictory, because attacks on human rights are among the main causes of war and instability worldwide, that also impact German security needs. Now more than ever, it is therefore time to listen to those who are speaking up – such as Hatice Cengiz.


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