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‘Fighting Machetes with Pens’: announcing the 2015 Voltaire Lecture

Bangladeshi humanist blogger Bonya Ahmed has been announced by the British Humanist Association (BHA) as its 2015 Voltaire Lecturer. Chaired by BHA President Jim Al-Khalili, her lecture will take place in the Hilton London Metropole Hotel on the evening of 2 July.

Bonya is a humanist writer and thinker. In February of this year, alongside her husband, Avijit Roy, she was attacked after leaving a national book fair in Bangladesh. They were set upon by Islamist fundamentalists and attacked with machetes. Bonya was gravely injured in the assault; Avijit lost his life. Al-Qaeda has since claimed responsibility for the attack, which Bonya rightly sees as an act of terror, as ‘a crime not only against a person, but against freedom of speech and humanity’.

In the Voltaire Lecture, Bonya will tell her tale, speaking of her life with Avijit and of their struggle for Humanism and secularism in Bangladesh and beyond. She’ll go on to take part in a conversation with BHA President Jim Al-Khalili, before answering questions from the audience.

Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson said, ‘Immediately after the cowardly attack on Bonya, she spoke publicly and to the media, declaring that she refused to be silenced, and that she would continue to fight for the cause that for which Avijit died. We are honoured to host her as our 2015 Voltaire Lecturer, and to play our part in ensuring that she can continue to make her impassioned case in defence of freedom of expression around the world.’

Tickets are available to buy at


For further comment or information contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal at or on 0773 843 5059.

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The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The Voltaire Lecture was established by the legacy of Theodore Besterman, biographer of Voltaire, for lectures on ‘any aspect of thought or human activity as affected by or with particular reference to humanism or Voltaire’ and are administered by the BHA. Previous Voltaire Lecturers have included Professor Sir David King, Professor Anthony Grayling, Professor Steven Pinker, Professor Brian Cox, Professor Richard Dawkins, Baroness Wootton, Professor Robert Hinde, Kenan Malik, Natalie Haynes, Lord Taverne, and Sir Ludovic Kennedy. It is always chaired by the President of the BHA, currently Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

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