nov 032017
 

Foto: Steven Quigley

De nordiske PEN-centre har sendt en fælles protest til Irans præsident.

Fire nordiske PEN-centre har den 2. november i et fælles brev til Irans præsident Hassan Rouhani, protesteret over fængslingen af den kendete iranske digter og menneskerettighedsjurist Sedigheh Vasmaghi i Teherans lufthavn den 14. oktober. Hun opholder sig nu i det berygtede Evin fængsel i Teheran.

-Som fribyforfatter repræsenterer Sedigheh Vasmaghi en udsat gruppe, der allerede har betalt en meget høj pris for sit menneskerettighedsarbejde, siger Elisabeth Åsbrink, der er formand for Svensk PEN.

Det er PEN-centrene i Sverige, Danmark, Norge og Finland, der samme står bag det usædvanlige initaitiv. I brevet til Irans præsident kræver formændene for de fire PEN-centre: Elisabeth Åsbrink, Per Øhrgaard, William Nygaard og Sirpa Kähkönen, at Sedigheh Vasmaghi straks løslades, at hendes krav på juridisk hjælp og kontakt med familien imødekommes samt at hun får den medicinske hjælp hun har brug for, som følge af et stærkt nedsat syn.

-Norsk PEN deler Svensk PENs bekymring over Vasmaghis situation og helbred, siger William Nygaard, formand for Norsk PEN. Sverige, Danmark, Norge og Finland har alle fribyer for forfulgte forfattere og det er vigtigt, at vi står sammen i forsvaret for disse modige stemmer.

Lørdag aften den 14. oktober blev digteren og menneskerettighedsjuristen Sedigheh Vasmaghi anholdt i Teherans lufthavn. Hun blev senere på natten løsladt, men næste dag blev hun hentet ind til forhør. En uge senere, den 22. oktober, blev hun stillet for en dommer og efter blot tolv minutters forhandling besluttede Revolutionsdomstolen at fastsætte en meeget høj kaution, og hun blev derefter ført til Evin fængslet.

Sedigheh Vasmaghi er bosat i Uppsala i Sverige, hvor hun gennen fribyorganisationen ICORN har været fribygæst som følge af trusler og forfølgelse i hjemlandet, Iran. Efter to år som fribygæst blev hun ansat som forsker ved universitetet i Uppsala.

Igennem sit arbejde har hun kæmpet utrætteligt for kvinders rettigheder. Som decent ved det teologiske institut på Tehereans Universitet i 1990'erne var hun en af de få kvinder, der underviste i islamisk lov. Vasmaghi er i dag en anerkendt forfatter og har udgivet flere digtsamlinger sideløbende med sine akademiske og politiske tekster. I 2014 udkom digtsamlingen Smeltet smerte på svensk. Hendes forfatterskab er præget af et stærkt socialt og politisk engagement, der blandt andet kommer til udtryk i hendes skarpe kritik af dødsstraf, stening og islamisk lov.

Læs de nordiske PEN-centres brev til præsident Hassan Rouhani her:Vasmaghi Brev President Rouhani

aug 012017
 

Den kinesiske poet og menneskerettighedsaktivist Liu Xiaobo døde af kræft den 13. juli. Få dage forinden blev han overført fra sin fængselscelle til et hospital, hvor hans kone, kunstneren og fotografen Liu Xia, fik lov at være ved hans side nogle timer om dagen.

Liu Xiaobo fik i 2009 en fængselsdom på 11 år, anklaget for at tilskynde til omstyrtelse af statsmagten. Året efter, i 2010, blev han in absentia tildelt Nobels Fredspris, men fik ikke lov til at rejse til Oslo og modtage prisen. Liu Xia blev ved den lejlighed sat i husarrest, angiveligt for blandt andet at forhindre at hun kunne rejse til Oslo for at modtage prisen på sin mands vegne. I løbet af de 8 år Liu Xiaobo tilbragte i fængslet sås parret kun når myndighederne en sjælden gang i mellem gav tilladelse til besøg.

Liu Xiaobo var medstifter af og i en periode formand for Chinese Independent PEN.

Se her hvordan forfatterkolleger over hele verden mindes ham: https://www.pen-international-message.org/.

PEN International har udsendt denne meddelelse i anledning af Liu Xiaobos død:

The PEN community are deeply saddened to hear of Liu Xiaobo’s death today.

Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, writer, literary critic and human rights activist spent the last eight years of his life in Jinzhou prison in northeast China, with little or no access to friends, family or colleagues. A former president of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) and an active PEN member, Liu was arrested in December 2009 and charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’, with a sentence of 11 years in prison.

His wife – the poet and photographer Liu Xia – was only allowed to visit him once a month under the supervision of prison guards. They would be forced to change the subject if they spoke about anything deemed offensive to the state. Liu Xia herself spent almost the entire duration of her husband’s detention under house arrest, held without charge.

Despite this harsh and unjust treatment, Liu Xiaobo’s continuing message to the outside world was one of peace, hope, and love. His poetry – written from within prison – spoke of his love for his wife and his hope for a China free from discrimination and human rights abuses. He used imagery rooted in nature and transformation, and his verse was rhythmic and lyrical.

At the December 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo, Liu Xiaobo’s medal and diploma were presented to an empty chair. It is a huge sadness to all of us who knew or were influenced by Liu Xiaobo – his resilient activism, his commitment to justice, his optimism and peaceful heart – that he will never have the opportunity to be recognised in person for all that he has done in the service of others. His empty chair was and remains a deep injustice, but just as he was remembered whilst locked behind bars, he will be remembered by us forever.

As well as sending our thoughts and love to Liu Xiaobo’s family, we are calling on the authorities to grant complete freedom of movement to his wife Liu Xia at this difficult time and going forward.

Below, please find statements from PEN President Jennifer Clement, Executive Director Carles Torner, UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and Salil Tripathi Chair of PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.

‘On this sad day I remember the 2010 image of the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, sitting beside Liu Xiaobo’s medal and diploma on an empty chair – PEN’s symbol for imprisoned writers.  On that day the world honoured and celebrated Liu Xiaobo’s courage as it does again today. Liu once said, ‘I hope I will be the last victim in China’s long record of treating words as crimes’.  We must continue to uphold his dream.’

– Jennifer Clement, PEN President

‘Jan Patocka wrote that, ‘the real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.’ Patocka drafted and signed with Havel the Charter 77 and died after a marathon interrogation by Czech Police; he remains the symbol of freedom for Czechs. Dear Liu Xiaobo, dear PEN colleague, you have died today because of the treatment imposed on you by Chinese authorities after you signed the Charter 2008. Your PEN friends around the world will praise your destiny and your commitment, we will praise you every single day until China will be free.’

– Carles Torner, PEN Executive Director

‘In one of your poems, you write of the ‘cold and indifferent moon’. The same sky with this moon in it reaches over all of us, over you and me, over my freedom and your oppression. What we have in common is as various as our differences, but one of thing we share is our belief in the power of writing to challenge those things that limit, oppress, destroy, and deny. I am sorry that you have experienced this denial, this oppression so directly, but I want you to know that – whilst your punishment has attempted to reduce you – in my eyes you are magnified inside your work, your power, your courage, and your love. Thank you for everything you have done in your fight for a better world’

– Carol Ann Duffy, UK Poet Laureate

China's callous treatment of political prisoners and dissidents reached lower depths today with the tragic passing of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo. Liu, a writer, poet, and democracy campaigner, had committee no crime - he wanted the Chinese Government to respect the dignity of Chinese people and uphold their human rights. But his words threatened the authoritarian regime which attempted to silence him by jailing him. His words will resonate and will continue to inspire millions of people in China and beyond, and he will be remembered long after the unelected men temporarily in power are forgotten and, as Liu dreamed and fought for, China will become a democracy.’

– Salil Tripathi, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee Chair

maj 032017
 
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I dag er det FNs internationale Pressefrihedsdag. Det markeres verden over, men desværre næppe i Tyrkiet, hvor mere end 140 journalister er blevet fængslet og 180 medier lukket efter det mislykkede kupforsøg sidste sommer. Tyrkiet er dermed det land i verden, hvor flest journalister er fængslet.

Sammen med Dansk Journalistforbund, Amnesty International, International Media Support og Danske medier, opfordrer Dansk PEN i en fælles udtalelse den danske regering til udtrykke solidaritet med de demokratiske kræfter der kæmper for det frie ord i Tyrkiet og til på alle måder at øge den direkte og indirekte støtte til dem.

Se her den fælles udtalelse fra de fem organisationer, der i dag er sendt til udenrigsminister Anders Samuelsen, til Folketingets udenrigsudvalg og til medierne:

Pressefrihedsdag 3. maj fælles udtalelse

mar 152017
 

FÆLLES UDTALELSE OM DE FORRINGEDE VILKÅR FOR YTRINGS- OG MEDIEFRIHED I TYRKIET

turkey-eats-twitterTil forelæggelse for FN’s FN Menneskerettighedsråd 34. Samling, punkt 4: Menneskerettigheds-situationer, der kræver Rådets opmærksomhed

Fremført af Sarah Clarke, International PEN

Den 15. marts 2017

Hr. formand

International PEN, ARTICLE 19 og 67 andre organisationer skal herved udtrykke vores dybe bekymring over den eskalerende forværring af ytrings- og mediefriheden, som Tyrkiet har set siden det voldelige og fordømmelige kupforsøg i juli 2016.

Over 180 nyhedsmedier er lukket ned ved præsidentielt dekret efter indførelse af undtagelsestilstand. Mindst 148 forfattere, journalister og mediefolk er fængslet, deriblandt Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet og Mehmet Altan, Ayşe Nazli Ilıcak og İnan Kizilkaya, hvilket nu gør Tyrkiet til det land i verden, der har sat flest journalister i fængsel. De tyrkiske myndigheder misbruger undtagelsestilstanden til en alt for vidtgående begrænsning af grundlæggende rettigheder og friheder, der kvæler kritiske røster og begrænser mangfoldigheden af de synspunkter og udtalelser, der er tilgængelige i det offentlige rum.

Disse begrænsninger har nået nye højder forud for den afgørende folkeafstemning 16. april om forfatningsmæssige reformer, som drastisk vil udvide den udøvende magts beføjelser. De tyrkiske myndigheders kampagne har været skæmmet af trusler, arrestationer og retsforfølgelse af dem, der har givet udtryk for kritik af de foreslåede ændringer. Flere medlemmer af oppositionen er blevet anholdt på terroranklager. Tusindvis af offentligt ansatte, herunder hundredvis af akademikere og modstandere af de forfatningsmæssige reformer, blev afskediget i februar. Markante ’Nej’-demonstranter er blevet tilbageholdt, hvilket har forværret det samlede klima af mistro og frygt. Rettighederne til at nyde godt af ytrings- og informationsfrihed, som er så afgørende for retfærdige og frie valg, er i fare.

I tiden op til folkeafstemningen er behovet for mediepluralisme er vigtigere end nogensinde. Vælgerne har ret til at blive behørigt informeret og kunne gøre sig bekendt med alle oplysninger og synspunkter, herunder afvigende røster, i tilstrækkelig god tid. Den fremherskende atmosfære bør være præget af respekt for menneskerettighederne og de grundlæggende frihedsrettigheder uden frygt for repressalier.

Vi skal derfor opfordre dette råd, dets medlemmer og observatører til at opfordre de tyrkiske myndigheder til:

  • At garantere lige sendetid for alle parter og give mulighed for at formidle alle oplysninger i videst muligt omfang for at sikre, at vælgerne er fuldt informeret;
  • At sætte en stopper for klimaet af mistro og frygt ved: 1) Straks at løslade alle dem, der holdes i fængsel for at udøve deres ret til menings- og ytringsfrihed; 2) At ophøre med at retsforfølge og tilbageholde journalister, der holdes interneret alene på grundlag af indholdet af deres journalistisk eller påståede partitilhørsforhold; 3) At indstille den udøvende magts indblanding i redaktionelle beslutninger, afskedigelser af journalister og redaktører – og pres imod og intimidering af kritiske nyhedsmedier og journalister
  • At tilbagekalde undtagelsestilstandens alt for vidtgående bestemmelser, hvis håndhævelse i praksis er uforenelige med Tyrkiets menneskeretsforpligtelser.

 

Tak hr. Formand

Underskrevet af 31 PEN-centre, deriblandt Dansk PEN, foruden organisationer som ARTICLE 19, Journalister Uden Grænser, Mediawatch og mange andre. Også netværket Fri Debat tilslutter sig opfordringen.

ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency

Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech

Albanian Media Institute

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain

ARTICLE 19

Association of European Journalists

Basque PEN

Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Cartoonists Rights Network International

Center for Independent Journalism - Hungary

Croatian PEN centre

Danish PEN

Digital Rights Foundation

English PEN

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

European Federation of Journalists

Finnish PEN

Foro de Periodismo Argentino

German PEN

Global Editors Network

Gulf Centre for Human Rights

Human Rights Watch

Icelandic PEN

Independent Chinese PEN Center

Independent Journalism Center - Moldova

Index on Censorship

Institute for Media and Society

International Press Institute

International Publishers Association

Journaliste en danger

Media Foundation for West Africa

Media Institute of Southern Africa

Media Watch

MYMEDIA

Nigeria PEN Centre

Norwegian PEN

Pacific Islands News Association

Pakistan Press Foundation

Palestine PEN

PEN American Center

PEN Austria

PEN Canada

PEN Català

PEN Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina

PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad

PEN Eritrea in exile

PEN Esperanto

PEN Estonia

PEN France

PEN International

PEN Melbourne

PEN Myanmar

PEN Romania

PEN Suisse Romand

PEN Trieste

Portuguese PEN Centre

Punto24

Reporters Without Borders

Russian PEN Centre

San Miguel PEN

Serbian PEN Centre

Social Media Exchange - SMEX

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

South East European Network for Professionalization of Media

Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique

Wales PEN Cymru

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA)

mar 142017
 

PEN International interview series marks International Women’s Day 2017

8 March 2017

‘It is the extraordinary legacy of women writers and journalists that inspire us at PEN to continue fighting the many barriers women writers still face. Whether that is censorship in the form of physical or emotional violence, a society that stereotypes and marginalizes them, or a publishing industry that still sees women earning less, publishing less, and being reviewed less than their male peers. This is a struggle that affects us all because everyone needs the stories, voices, and craft women writers have always offered – despite a huge number of challenges – in such abundance. The stories, rhythms, and power of women writers have created new worlds, both real and fictional, in which readers can lose and find themselves, glean inspiration to live more visibly and inhabit women’s knowledge.

PEN International is honoured to present this interview series marking International Women’s Day 2017 as we speak to 3 women writers. Their individual contributions to the field are inspiring as each one has experienced trials and difficulties simply because they are women.’

Jennifer Clement

President, PEN International

 

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Elif Shafak

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing at a very early age, when I was eight years old. Not because I wanted to be a novelist, I didn’t even know that was a possibility. It was because I was a lonely child. I was an only child raised by a single mother and books opened new and undiscovered worlds to me. I loved those worlds. The decision to be a writer came around the time I was 18, which is when I started writing purposefully. So first came the love of books and then the decision to be a writer.

How have your experiences as a woman and your experiences as a writer collided?

In Turkey the literary world might seem very liberal, well-educated and westernised at first glance. But when you scratch the surface it’s the same as the rest of Turkish society. In Turkey if you’re a male writer you are first and foremost known as a writer but if you are a woman writer, first and foremost you are woman and then a writer. There is this gender lens in Turkish society that everything is seen through. Women writers are recognised when they’re much older, but until then as a woman writer you are constantly belittled, ridiculed and looked down upon. It’s much harder for women writers, journalists, poets, academics to get the same recognition as their male counterparts.

Has that been your experience?

Yes, that has been my experience. I was very young, 22, when my first collection of stories was published, and 23 when I published my first novel and I was mocked and ridiculed constantly. One of the biggest lesson I learned as a writer was around the time that The Bastard of Istanbul was published. I was attacked by the elite of Turkey’s society, accused of being a traitor because I talked about the Armenian genocide. I understood then that elite of Turkey and the people of Turkey were very different. I came to discover that my book was being read by people from very diverse backgrounds. The book gained popularity through word of mouth rather than a marketing campaign. Someone would read it and give it to a friend, who would give it to their aunt who would give it to their son who would give it to their colleague – people were sharing my book. This was so inspiring to me at a time when I was being attacked by the political and literary elite. And the positive feedback and love I received from the readers was amazing. I am not an elitists’ writer, I am reader’s writer and through the art of storytelling I feel connected to readers, which is very important to me.

A lot of women writers that PEN has worked with have faced threats of violence or experienced violence, which is another form of censorship. How do gender roles as perceived in society impact the topics you feel you can write about and what the characters in your books can do? In other words, do you feel that gender roles can restrict writers and what they write about?

I think all of us in our daily lives are reduced to certain roles and identities no matter where we are in the world. But the beauty of fiction and art of story-telling is that you can be multiple people. I have always defended multiplicity; as a writer I have multiple personalities. I believe that a writer’s pen must be bisexual, multi-faceted. It is a writer’s job to ask the difficult questions, to challenge stereotypes and taboos, not to give answers, readers have to arrive at those answers themselves. The voices of minority communities and the ‘other’ always play a big role in my writing. I want to give a voice to people whose voices have been silenced. Because I have felt like the other so many times in my own life, including in my own motherland. I have a constant flow of empathy towards the other, both past and present. For me fiction is not necessarily autobiographical, I find that boring. What is much more intriguing is to occupy a different space, to be someone else. That is truly transcendental, that is real freedom.

Who was the first female character that you read that really inspired you and why?

There are so many because my reading has always been really eclectic. Growing up I read lots of Turkish books, but I also read lots of English, Russian and Spanish literature and all of these had a big impact on me.

When I was younger I loved Little Women and the character of Jo really spoke to me. Over time I discovered Jane Austen and George Elliot and I loved reading Gogol and Dostoevsky. And I vividly remember the first time I read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, it really blew me away.

Does story-telling have the power to challenge social injustice?

Absolutely. I think storytelling has the power to open up an inner space in all of us, and that space is so neglected in our lives. For example in Turkey I have readers from all backgrounds – leftists, secularists, Turks, Kurds, Jews, Greeks and people from very conservative backgrounds and women who wear the hijab. And many of us feel so restrained by different parts of our identity, particularly publically. But I have spoken to scores of readers from all these backgrounds who say to me that they cried when a gay character or an Armenian character in my books were hurt. So there’s this real connection with the ‘other’ through my novels even if they don’t profess similar views in public. I think that when we are alone and we can retreat into our inner space we become a little more open minded and a little more ready to empathise with stories that we may not necessarily recognise as our own.

But when we are in the company of others, when we are in groups or communities we become more closed, more ready to subscribe to the group narrative. Art, in whatever form it takes, opens up inner spaces in all of us and can ultimately change us.

What book should every girl read?

I think every girl should read constantly. Our favourite books should change over time. But the act of reading should be continuous, never ending, particularly if you want to be or are a writer.

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Grace Mutandwa

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Oh yes I want to be a writer.’ What I do remember is that in junior school I wrote the most creative compositions in class and it made me happy. I think from a very early age if I was not reading I liked writing stories. Going into journalism just seemed like the most normal thing for me and eventually writing a novel and contributing to various books just felt very comfortable. I cannot put a place and date to the full realisation that I wanted to be a writer because all I know is that it is something I just slid into and I felt at home.

How have your experiences as a woman and your experiences as a writer collided?

I am confident in so many ways but as a woman and a writer sometimes I am not always sure that the story I have to tell has a readership. I battle with some of the stories inside me because I wonder if they are not “too woman” or “too revealing of my soul”. I am at ease with my womanhood but struggle with how some of the women around me would relate to the stories I have locked up inside my heart and head. I find that I judge and criticise myself more harshly than I should and that makes me falter at times. I am a woman with an opinion and not scared to put it in the public domain and as a writer that fulfils me but does not necessarily satisfy some readers who believe truth should be reshaped or avoided in writing. As a woman what I write is analysed and criticised more by fellow women and ironically embraced by men. I have to work three times harder than male writers to prove that I can write stories that resonate with everyday life. I have to withstand the withering attacks of male privilege that seek to trivialise women’s issues.

A lot of women writers for whom we have worked have faced threats of violence or experienced violence, which is another form of censorship. How do gender roles as perceived in society impact the topics you feel you can write about and what the characters in your books can do? In other words, do you feel that gender roles can restrict writers and what they write about?

I am a non-conformist. I am daring and curious. I am sensitive towards minority rights and sometimes I feel drawn to write more about issues that affect those whose rights are threatened. As a newspaper columnist I have written about gay rights and received death and “corrective rape” threats and insults via email but it has not scared me off speaking up about gay rights. I am currently working on a book whose main protagonist is a lesbian and I am quite certain when the book is eventually out I will be subjected to all sorts of threats and insults but I am too old to care and I believe in standing up for something. Women writers who are ambivalent about how they might be perceived if they don’t restrict themselves to the “nice and tame” roles demanded by patriarchy will most certainly have problems getting their characters to mimic real life. We live in a beautiful but dangerous, cruel, dirty, violent and sexually explosive world where things are not always black or white – there are grey areas and splashes of bold colour too. I find writing exciting and stimulating when I am true to myself and when I address the world frankly.

Who was the first female character that you read that really inspired you and why?

The late Florence Onyebuchi “Buchi” Emecheta in her autobiography Head Above Water inspired and motivated me to be a writer. Her character spoke to the sacrifices black African women have to make in foreign lands while struggling to meet cultural demands and expectations. She fought hard to remain true to her values but also made the tough decision to put her needs first. In an unforgiving patriarchal society that had (still has) a reach that followed her all the way to the United Kingdom, Buchi was way ahead of her time in the battle for space to grow and for equality. If she was here today, she would be in the trenches not just holding up the banner; “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030,” but actively pushing the barriers that keep popping up in gender parity. Warm and soft, she exuded a strength of character that I admire.

Does story-telling have the power to challenge social injustice?

It does, especially if you believe that our words are powerful – they can make or break a person. We use words to build or destroy and in story-telling we both infuse and extract value. My father told me folk stories told to him by his parents when he was a child. They taught me about both the wise and foolish ways of man and the world. I learnt right from wrong from story-telling. In Africa we have a long tradition of instilling values of social justice through story telling. Sure, stories are told to entertain too but they always have a moral. Story-telling has the power to challenge social injustice and to encourage and nurture people on the importance of social justice in a democratic society.

What book should every girl read?

Definitely Ngaahika Ndeenda ’I Will Marry When I Want’) by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the late Ngugi wa Mirii. Set in post-colonial Kenya this is a story whose narrative still holds true to some of the struggles post-colonial Africa is still facing. Navigating between tradition, Christianity, holding onto ancestral land and trying to embrace change brought on by urbanisation is an ongoing battle. The simmering tensions of political dissent and social classes still abound. Every girl should read I Will Marry When I Want at the start of their journey in creating a space for themselves in fighting for how resources are shared, decisions are made and where and how they should fit into social justice and governance issues. Every girl should read it and vow never to be invisible but to stand up and be heard.

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Hanan al-Shaykh

a_b_hanan-al-shaykh___michael-warWhen did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

My mother left us when I was five years old. I remember every time I would visit her I hid something of mine in her new home, so that the next time I visited I would assure myself that I had been there before and spent time with my mother. One day I stopped doing that, instead, I wrote my feelings and felt happy writing them. I thought; this is what I’d like to do. Write. At sixteen, I started sending articles to the newspaper. I was from a small, conservative neighbourhood and for a girl to be published was a big thing.

How have your experiences as a woman and your experiences as a writer collided?

Being a woman helped me. In Lebanon, I was rebelling against traditions, against my father and what he wanted me to be. I was rebelling against the war as well. It was a man’s war and I was writing about my experiences of war as a woman. This was not common in the Arab world.

A lot of women writers with whom we have worked have faced threats of violence or experienced violence, which is another form of censorship. How do gender roles as perceived in society impact the topics you feel you can write about and what the characters in your books can do? In other words, do you feel that gender roles can restrict writers and what they write about?

It depends on the writer, but I was never restricted. Since I was fourteen, I’ve written whatever I’ve wanted. For example, with The Story of Zahra I couldn’t find a publisher. They thought it was too explicit with rough language and rebellious politics. So I took the manuscript to a friend, who was a children’s publisher, and told her I was going to throw it out the window (in those days you didn’t have photocopies). My friend closed the window and told me, ‘We’re going to publish it, you and me.’ That’s what we did. Now, things have changed, there are many female writers from the Arab world who write about what they want.

Who was the first female character that you read that really inspired you and why?

I was inspired by Huda Sha‘rawi. I read about her life in newspapers. She was the first woman who took off her veil in Egypt. Also, my neighbour, who was a tram conductor and an avid reader, knew I loved books and gave me the first translated book from English to Arabic: Jane Eyre.

I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, she says she’s not beautiful.’ How amazing! I had never known a character in a book in Arabic to speak that way.

Does story-telling have the power to challenge social injustice?

Definitely. I wrote The Story of Zahra and Beirut Blues about the civil war in Lebanon. When you saw the news, the war was about the fighting, but you never knew how the people felt — the human experience. Literature takes you by the hand and shows you the effect of war on individuals and on humanity. Books can help us understand each other and give us courage.

What book should every girl read?

I love Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. It’s beautifully written. Also 1001 Nights. The stories are juicy and they throb with humanity. They teach that each person in life has to have the right to live the way they want to live — and to be treated justly.

feb 092017
 

Dansk PEN arbejder selvstændigt, men formålet er givet i og med, at foreningen er en del af International PEN og dermed forpligtet på organisationens charter, der definerer to hovedopgaver:

– At arbejde for ytringsfriheden overalt i verden, forstået som frihed til at sige, skrive, tegne og på anden måde ytre sig uden at være underlagt censur eller skulle spørge om lov.

– At arbejde for civiliseret omgang mellem nationer, grupper og individer, dvs. at modarbejde og/eller påtale ytringer, hvis primære indhold er had, eller som på anden vis udnytter friheden til at fremme bevidst misinformation.

Arbejdet for ytringsfriheden indebærer ikke en udbredelse af eller en solidarisering med en hvilken som helst ytring, men alene en indsats for retten til at fremsætte ytringer såvel som for retten at kritisere fremsatte ytringer. Arbejdet mod hadefulde og misinformerende ytringer indebærer ikke at hæmme meningsforskelle, men at insistere på og fremme konstruktive og hensynsfulde rammer herfor.

Ytringsfriheden er truet eller ikke-eksisterende i store dele af verden i form af censur eller trusler, der ikke alene kommer fra stater, regeringer og andre myndigheder, men også kan udgå fra enkeltpersoner og grupper i civilsamfundet.

PEN søger størst mulig information om sådanne tilfælde og beslutter i hver enkelt sag, hvilken fremgangsmåde der bedst tjener foreningens overordnede formål (offentlig protest, målrettet appel, henvendelse til egne eller fremmede myndigheder etc).

Arbejdet for fængslede skribenter varetages i International PEN af Writers in Prison Committee; Dansk PEN har sin egen gruppe, som deltager i dette arbejde.

Efter konsultation med International PEN kan Dansk PEN i kortere eller længere perioder vælge at koncentrere indsatsen om bestemte lande eller områder, hvor der er særlig alvorlige problemer, og/eller hvor Dansk PEN eller enkelte af foreningens medlemmer måtte have en særlig viden og særlige forudsætninger. Dansk PEN arbejder endvidere for, at forfulgte skribenter, forfattere og kunstnere kan få ophold i Danmark og udfolde deres talenter her, f.eks. gennem fribyordningen.

I indsatsen mod hate speech vil Dansk PEN frem for alt søge at foregå med et godt eksempel og i særlige tilfælde tage til orde mod udsagn, hvis primære form eller indhold fremmer had og misinformation.

Dansk PEN vil søge den størst mulige offentlighed for sit virke med henblik på at øge forståelsen for vigtigheden af foreningens formål, ikke alene for de grupper, PEN direkte repræsenterer, men for demokratiets vilkår i det hele taget, herunder debatkulturen. Det kan ske gennem pressemeddelelser, kronikker forfattet af foreningen eller enkelte medlemmer, demonstrationer eller på anden vis.

Dansk PEN vil ligeledes arbejde for et bredt samarbejde med andre foreninger om konkrete opgaver, der er forenelige med PENs formål, ligesom med sponsorer, der støtter PENs charter.