New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

 

Nedim’s story

Nedim Türfent is a Kurdish journalist and poet. He was imprisoned in 2016 after publicising police harassment of workers in south-east Turkey.

Jackie Mansourian, Co-convenor of PEN Melbourne’s Writers-in-Prison program, explains how Nedim Türfent became an Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne:

In January 2020 Nedim Türfent wrote his first card to us. We were moved by his compassion and concern about the bushfires at that time: ‘I’m so sorry about [the] massive forest fires in Australia. Please feel my aching heart. Thank you for your letters. We are at one-heart’.

Later that year, PEN Melbourne members wrote cards to him during our annual card-writing gathering. As I wrote, I reflected on his circumstances. He had been in imprisoned since the age of 26 and the first two years were in solitary confinement. I have children of the same age. I thought of them. The pain of imagining them, like Nedim, being treated with such cruelty and disregard was unbearable. I told him that we knew of his circumstances, and were committed to working for his freedom.

Nedim replied personally to everyone who wrote to him. We were touched and challenged by this response, and made the commitment to invite Nedim to be a PEN Melbourne Honorary Member. Nedim has accepted our invitation. This means that PEN Melbourne will work purposefully and with many others, for his release. We will also help amplify awareness of his writings. Whilst in prison he has written a collection of poetry in Turkish, Kuş Aynası. Imagine the small mirror that people with budgerigars put in the cage for the birds’ own self-entertainment.

‘The Soul and the Beast,’ published here, has been translated from Nedim’s collection by Turkish-Australian poet, Hidayet Ceylan. Full details, including the original text in Turkish, are available at penmelbourne.org. It has been a complex process of dialogue about the translation, as we discuss the meanings and interpretations, without the presence and affirmation of the poet himself. Please read the poem, find out about Nedim’s circumstances, join our work for Nedim, and write to him in solidarity.

“Kendi iblislerimiziz, kendimizi cennetimizden ediyoruz.”

“We are our own devils; we are expelling ourselves from our heaven”

                                                                                                                                                                        Goethe

 

CAN VE CANAVAR

THE SOUL AND THE BEAST

Kimim ben

Who am I?

Bir dünya rengim var, sesim, dilim

I have a world of colours, voices, languages

Türlü türlü huyum…

And all sorts of natures…

Mazlum da benim, zalim de

I am the oppressor and the oppressed

ölen de, öldüren de…

I am the murdered and the murderer…

Tut kelin perçeminden!

Grab the curly hair of the bald man.

 

Ben Oblomov kadar tembel

I am as lazy as Oblomov

Kozet kadar sefil, pejmürde

I am as miserable and shabby as Kozet

Dewrêşê Ewdî kadar fedakarım.

I am as self-sacrificing as Dewrêşê Ewdî.

Harikalar Diyarı’nda Alice’im

I am Alice in Wonderland

Kimi zaman Don Kişot olurum

I sometimes become Don Quixote

Kimi zaman Boby Sands,

Sometimes Bobby Sands,

Ama bir yanım hep çocuktur

But one side of me is always a child

Şeker Portakalı’ndaki Zeze kadar yaramazdır

And as naughty as Zeze in My Sweet Orange Tree

Bir yanım da olgundur,

Another side of me is mature,

Kürek mahkumu Kelebek kadar

Persistent, determined. A combatant.

İnatçı, azimli ve mücadeleci…

Like Papillon and the galley slave…

 

Riyad’da burka giyerim zoraki,

I wear the burqa by force in Riyadh

Kiev’de Femen olurum.

I become Femen in Kiev

Kanberra’da anamın rahminden kurtulur

I am freed from my mother’s womb in Canberra

Moskova’da beşik beşik yatarım…

I sleep in many cradles in Moscow…

Dubai’de adımbaşı gökdelenlerde, Kore’deki bir kafeste,

I live in sky scrapers on every corner in Dubai, in a cage in Korea

Budapeşte’de tarihle iç içe, Saraybosna’da yeraltında,

I am embedded with history in Budapest, in underground shelters in Sarajevo

Amazon ormanlarının derinliğinde yaşarım…

I live deep in the Amazon jungle…

Dublin’de kütüphane ve müze,

I wander the library and museum in Dublin,

Sana’da mezar mezar dolaşırım!

each of the graves in Sana’a

Tokyo’da bir yüzyıl yaşarım, bir asır,

I live as old as one hundred years, a century in Japan

Bağdat’ta ergenliği görsem, ne mutlu bana!

If I reach adolescence in Baghdad, how happy I am!

 

Bir yanım şairdir, beriki katil, asker,

One part of me is a poet, another part is a murderer, a soldier

Para babasıyım New York’ta

I am filthy rich in New York

Burada proleterya, şurada parya

Here the proletariat, there the pariah

Yoksul ve yoksunum…

I am poor and I am deprived….

Kapitalistim ve komüncü

I am a capitalist and I am a communist

Katalonya’da devrimci, Madrit’te statükocuyum.

I am a revolutionary in Catalonia, defend the status quo in Madrid

Glasgow’da saksafon çalarım, yaşım 60,

I play saxophone in Glasgow, I am 60 years old

Kabil’de ekmek çalarım yaşım 6!

I steal bread in Kabul and I am 6 years old!

Anlayacağınız

As you can see

Ottawa’da obeziteden

I die from obesity in Ottawa

Mogadişu’da açlıktan ölürüm…

from hunger in Mogadishu…

 

Buenos Aires’te Plaza de Mayo annesiyim;

I am a mother of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires

Latin Amerika’da bir gerillayım

I am a guerilla in Latin America

Uzak Doğu’da bilim insanıyım

I am a scientist in the Far East

Yakın Asya’da ilim ve irfan…

Knowledge and wisdom bearer in the Near East…

Adımı ister Sofie koyun,

Whether you name me Sophie,

İsterseniz Mefisto, ya da Sysphus;

Or Mephisto, or Sisyphus;

Yüreğim bazen Mirabel kardeşlerini kadar kocamandır.

My heart is sometimes as big as the Mirabal sisters.

İstanbul’da Hrant Dink gibi tedirgin olurum.

I become as anxious as Hrant Dink in İstanbul.

Auschwitz’deki adımı sorarsanız, Elie Wiesel.

If you ask my name in Auschwitz, it is Elie Wiesel.

Kobanêli Aylan Kurdî’yim, denizin kıyısına değil

I am Aylan Kurdi from Kobane, I have not hit the shore 

Nasır tutan vicdanınıza tokat gibi vurulmuşum

My dead body has slapped your calloused conscience

 

Christchurch’te fanatik bir dinci vuruyor beni,

A fanatic fundamentalist shoots me in Christchurch,

Suriye’de F bilmem-ne-tipi savaş uçağı…

An F-whatever type of fighter jet in Syria…

Firavunun pençesinde bir Filistinli

I am a Palestinian under the claw of a Pharaoh

Führer’in toynaklarında bir Yahudiyim.

I am a Jew under the hooves of Führer.

Fakat Firavun da benim, Führer de!

I am both Pharaoh and Führer!

Demokles’in kılıcını da ben taşırım, Brutus de benim.

I carry the sword of Damocles, I am Brutus as well.

Zorba ve tiranım bazı bazı

From time to time I am a despot and a tyrant

Tokmak elimde, silah belimde

Hammer in my hand and gun on my belt

İşgal ve ilhak ederim

I invade and annex   

Sözümona demokrasi ve özgürlük taşırım

I carry a so-called freedom and democracy

Esasında kolonilerde teröristler yaratırım…

In fact, I create terrorists in the colonies…

 

Pekin’de çekik gözlüyüm

I am Chinese in Beijing 

Akra’da kapkara…

I am African in Accra…

Kızılderiliyim beyaz tenli.

I am First Nations in America.

Erivanlıyım, Rojavalıyım, Myanmarlıyım…

I am from Yerevan, I am from Rojova, I am from Myanmar…

Maorice ve Kürtçe konuşurum

I speak Maori and Kurdish

Ruanda’daki dilimi Fransa’ya sorun!

Ask France my language in Rwanda!

Dört bir tarafta ben varım, yerde ve gökte.

I am present at every corner, on the ground and in the sky.

Hollywood ile Bollywood arasında mekik dokurum.

I travel back and forth between Hollywood and Bollywood

Tüm canlıların tanrı ve tanrıçasıyım!

I am the God and Goddess of all living beings!

Ulusu, devleti yoktan var ederim,

I create the Nation and the State from nothing,

O gelip beni vardan yok eder…

They come and exterminate my existence…

 

Sadist ve narsistim, isim günüm meçhul

I am a sadist and narcissist, my name is obscure

Kilise, camii ve sinagogdan çıkar

As I leave the church, mosque and synagogue

Hades’in müdavimi, Nirvana’nın yolcusu olurum…

I am inured to Hades, I enter the path to Nirvana…

Duvarlarınıza çarpan bir mülteciyim

I am a refugee crashing your walls

Kim Phuc çıplaklığında koşarım barbarlıktan…

I escape the barbarism in the nakedness of Kim Phuc…

Geleceğin savunucusu Greta Thunberg

I become Greta Thunberg, the defender of the future

Yaşamın koruyucusu Nadya Murad olurum…

Nadya Murad, the protector of life…

İsviçre’ye yurttaş adayıyım,

I am a candidate for citizenship to Switzerland,

Ülkemin kirpikleri yaşlı ve kanlı…

The eyelashes of my country awash with blood and tears…

Kan akıtan, cana kıyan da benim…

I am the one who sheds blood and murders…

Can da, canavar da benim…

I am both the soul and the beast…

 

Bir avuç soğuk su çal yüzüne,

Splash a handful of cold water on your face,

Kimim ben?

Who am I?

Yeryüzünde cennetle cehennemi birlikte var eden,

I am the one who creates the Heaven and Hell on Earth together

Aydınlığın ve karanlığın bekçisiyim!

I am the gate-keeper of the light and the darkness!

İnsanım ben, insanın ta kendisiyim…

I am a human being, I am the human being…

İçim dışım çelişki, ne yaman çelişki.

My interior, my exterior is a contradiction, such a thorough contradiction.

Nedim’i mektupsuz, selamsız bırakmayalım!

Do not leave Nedim without a letter and without a greeting!

Nedim Türfent
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
A-44
VAN – TÜRKİYE

The poem is available as a broadsheet pdf here:

nedim_broadsheet6


 

 

Excerpt from Nedim’s Open letter to the winds of injustice
Van Prison. 14 April 2021, 1,800th day of imprisonment:

Words fly by in my head. Meanwhile, I can barely put two syllables together. My pen has been becalmed for hours. The ink no longer flows, as if my pen had been weaned . . .

 

I must tell you frankly that had I been told five years ago, ‘you will be held in prison for years, for having practiced alternative journalism,’ I would have moved along and laughed in your face. Never would I have imagined that the Law and our rights could be trampled this badly. Like a shuttle constantly moving backward and forward between acceptance and habituation, we are transformed into this object weaving the net we thought impossible, undoable. And that is the worst of it. Today we accept silently, as if they were ordinary, all these things that, no more than five years ago, would have set fire to the greatest of indignations. We collapse in our armchairs, settle into our echo chambers, and we wish a long life to the snake that does not strike us . . .

 

This pencil is one of the stories on which the vice of persecution tested its teeth. In 2015 in Y¸ksekova, a town smack on the borders of Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, Turkish special forces made a group of Kurdish construction workers lie naked on the ground and shouted, ‘You will see the strength of the Turk!’ I relayed this infamy and an inquiry was opened against these policemen. But shortly thereafter, the voice of revenge reached my ears. Attacks using tear gas, rubber bullets, surveillance, aggressions, death threats, then arrest, torture during custody and, finally, on 13 May 2016, incarceration. . . All of the 19 witnesses for the prosecution described torture while in custody . . . one of the witnesses declared: ‘the policemen told me: if you don’t sign this document, we will pull out your teeth with pliers.’

 

Please, consider this open letter as ‘representative’ of situations. In this framework, justice is demanded for all. In solidarity and with the pencil’s resistance, before its lead is broken.

 

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
www.kedistan.net/2021/05/03/nedim-turfent-open-letter-injustice

 

 

Write to Nedim
Van Yüksek Güvenlikli Kapalı Ceza İnfaz Kurumu
A-44 VAN – TURKEY


June 27, 2021

PEN Melbourne is proud to have Nedim Türfent as our Honorary Member.

We have recently received confirmation from Nedim from his prison in Van, Turkey, and through the broader PEN International network, that he welcomes his membership to PEN Melbourne.

Nedim is a journalist, editor and poet.

He was detained in May 2016 after reporting on Turkish special forces’ ill-treatment of Turkish and Kurdish workers, in south-east Turkey. He published footage of this treatment and immediately began receiving death threats from the police and became the target of online harassment. He was detained in solitary confinement. He was 26 years old. Ten months later he was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’.

In his trial beginning in June 2017, he was denied the right to appear in court physically.  However, 19 of the 20 prosecution witnesses retracted their statements, saying they had been extracted under torture. In December, 2017 he was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison. This verdict has been upheld twice. But Nedim’s lawyers have appealed further.

While waiting for his appeal, Nedim has been studying, English, German and writing poetry.

He is also a generous writer of letters. During PEN Melbourne’s end- of- year card writing to imprisoned writers in December 2020, many members wrote to Nedim. He has since written cards in return to each writer, in gratitude, and with powerful messages that affirm ‘freedom for words’.

If you would like to join PEN Melbourne’s actions in solidarity with Nedim, please contact us at wip@penmelbourne.org

And join the call for Nedim Türfent’s release on social media – #FreeNedim

One of Nedim’s first poems translated into many languages

Let my heart give life –  Nedim Türfent

Your heart has become the earth
let it give elixir into the veins
bring fertility to the soil
from the springs behind the mountain Qaf.
let the benevolence of the crops
be the silver key to life.
let your heart soothe
the farmer
the peasant
the day laborer
the distressed

let it massage the broken wings of birds
with ointments
let it grant refuge
to the ants, working collectively, in solidarity
let heart fill with generosity
giving butterflies an extra day of life
let it be a lifeline
like the womb   

let your heart be crystal clear
as clear as water
let it give life to the lifeless.

 

Translation by Barış Altıntaş, Media and Law Studies Association (MSLA)

https://pen-international.org/news/let-my-heart-give-life-english

 

 

First published here: https://medyavehukuk.org/en/800-days-behind-bars-nedim-turfent-van-prison

 

———————————————————————————————————————-
Nedim Türfent

New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

PEN Melbourne has nominated imprisoned Kurdish writer Nedim Türfent as an Honorary Member, and we are pleased that Nedim has accepted.

Nedim Türfent is a journalist and poet currently imprisoned in Turkey. In December 2017, more than 18 months after his arrest, Türfent was handed an eight-year-and-nine-month prison sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges. He has now spent more than 1,500 days in detention.  Naming Nedim as an honorary member means that PEN Melbourne will energetically prosecute his case and continue our correspondence with him.

If you would like to join our work with Nedim Türfent please contact our Writers in Prison Team.

PEN Melbourne members have written to Nedim on several occasions since his arrest, and we have received spirited and enthusiastic replies written from his prison cell. Here is a letter we received earlier this year.

—————————————————————————————————

TURKEY: ACTION Write to Selahattin Demirtaş

International PEN Melbourne Centre

ACTION

TURKEY

WRITE to Selahattin Demirtaş, a writer in prison

Throughout the year PEN Melbourne members and friends write to persecuted writers in prison around the world.

We send our best wishes, and our hopes that they are staying well and in good spirits.

We do this in the spirit of solidarity and to let them know that they are not alone and not forgotten.

We try by this means to allow a light into their lives in prison.

The letters are not political, but a gesture of friendship and a way of connecting across the cultural divides.

 

Send a letter to show solidarity with prominent Kurdish politician and writer Selahattin Demirtaş.

Writer and opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş turned 48 on Saturday 10 April – the fifth birthday he has spent behind bars and away from his loved ones.

Demirtaş has been held in pre-trial detention for over four years, on dubious terrorism charges. The European Court of Human Rights twice ruled for his release, to no avail.

It is time that Turkey abides by its obligations under international law and release Demirtaş once and for all.

 

Backround information:

Former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested on 4 November 2016 on dubious terrorism charges. The Turkish authorities have so far failed to implement a landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights issued in November 2018, which found his detention to be politically motivated and ordered his immediate release – a call reiterated by the Court’s Grand Chamber in December 2020.

PEN International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Please send messages of solidarity to:

Mr Selahattin Demirtaş

Edirne F Tipi CİK B1-38

EDİRNE

TURKEY

 

We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar. Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets. Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm LaMama Courthouse 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Poets for Myanmar: 111 Days of Protest

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar.
Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets.

Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm
LaMama Courthouse
349 Drummond St, Carlton

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/poets-for-myanmar111-days-of-protest-tickets-154346331031?utm-medium=discovery&utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&aff=estw&utm-source=tw&utm-term=listing

 

 

International PEN Melbourne Centre

 

MYANMAR

 

International PEN Melbourne Centre condemns the Myanmar Military Regime’s deadly use of force against its own citizens including poets and journalists since the coup of 1 February 2021. The Military junta has ramped up surveillance of opponents and arrests, including of journalists, writers, and creative artists; and increased violence against protesters. The junta has brought in legal measures and emergency powers to silence and intimidate and to justify its human rights abuses.

Intentional and ongoing internet shutdowns have severely diminished journalists’ ability to do their jobs on the ground.

“When a government turns off the internet, it means that it knows the truth is its enemy.”

We call for the immediate release of all detained journalists.  The junta must cease these violent attacks on press freedom, the silencing of its opponents and the brutal murders of citizens. PEN urges the junta to reinstate the elected government and to respect the fundamental rights of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and rightful access to information.

On 6 April Myanmar’s most famous satirist and an outspoken critic of the military regime, Maung Thura (known publicly as Zarganar) was reportedly arrested at his home and taken to an undisclosed location by junta forces.

 

PEN condemns his arrest and the targeting of media figures by the military junta and we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested following the military coup.

Statement from PEN Myanmar: 17th March, 2021

Since the Myanmar military seized power from the elected government on 1 February, millions of people across the nation have protested against this illegitimate regime. The demonstrations have brought the young and old out onto the streets. The creativity of their protests has garnered worldwide attention.

Actors, directors, musicians, artists, poets and writers have all lent their talents to strengthen the movement that we call Myanmar‘s Spring Revolution. We have voiced out and performed online and on the street. Myanmar people have called for respect for our votes, release of our leaders, and an end to military dictatorship.

For the last two or three weeks, the military – which refuses to negotiate a solution, in defiance of the wishes of the international community, including the UN Security Council – has clamped down violently on peaceful demonstrators, including shooting them in the head with live rounds. Democratic leaders have been taken away, and their tortured bodies returned to their families. Armed soldiers wander the streets of our cities at night, shooting at random, terrorizing the residents. None of us is safe.

Myanmar’s artistic community has been at the vanguard of these protests: some have been killed and many others arrested. PEN Melbourne is not printing names as there is fear of retribution in Myanmar.

PEN Myanmar has said:

“We know that the situation must ultimately be solved by the people of Myanmar. But we call on the international community to do what they can to support us in our fight for democracy. As creative professionals from Myanmar, we call on our creative brothers and sisters across the world, and from all artistic communities, to stand up and show solidarity with us in our struggle and support those in need!”

Do you want to take Action for Myanmar?

PEN Myanmar and PEN Melbourne suggest that you:

  1. Write to the Australian Government and;

 

  • Urge the Australian government to continue its initial condemnation of the violent attacks on civilians in Myanmar
  • Request the Australian government not to recognise the military regime known as State Administrative Council but to recognise the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Assembly of the Union (CRPH) as the only leading authority of people of Myanmar.

 

Write your letter of concern to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Senator the Hon Marise Payne

 

Email: senator.payne@aph.gov.au

Parliament Office

PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Electorate Office

Postal address

PO Box 1420
Parramatta, NSW, 2150

 

  1. Spread the news and information widely about what’s going on in Myanmar to your networks and the general public.

Follow on TWITTER

#SaveMyanmar

#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar

Defend Freedom of Expression/Support persecuted writers/Promote literature and writing

JOIN PEN Melbourne

DONATE to PEN Melbourne

Fundraiser for PEN Melbourne Screening of The Dissident, Tuesday 18 May 2021, 6.40pm.

Fundraiser for PEN Melbourne
Screening of The Dissident

Supporting our work on behalf of persecuted writers.
Tuesday 18 May 2021, 6.40pm.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-dissident-fundraiser-for-pen-melbourne-tickets-152452939847

You are doubt be familiar with the horrific story of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Khashoggi disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, 2018. He  never came out. His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside for 12 hours.

Hatice Cengiz and dissidents around the world are left to piece together the clues to a brutal murder and expose a global cover-up perpetrated by the very country Khashoggi loved.

‘It’s an astonishing piece of work, both fearless and artful in the way it encompasses and orders layers of information. If our world needs new forms to encompass the complexity of modern life, The Dissident points a way forward.’   Sydney Morning Herald.


1 March, 2021

Arrest and imprisonment of Arash Ganji in Iran.

 

A court of appeal in Iran on 28 February confirmed that writer, translator and secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association, Mr Arash Ganji will be imprisoned for 11 years. His arrest and imprisonment are imminent.

Background

Arash Ganji is a well-known Iranian writer and translator, and currently serves as Secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA). On December 22, 2019, authorities raided Mr Ganji’s apartment and confiscated his belongings, including his laptop, books, and notes, and then arrested him on undisclosed charges. An IWA member close to this case has said that Mr Ganji’s arrest was in connection with his translation of a book about a Kurdish-led uprising in northern Syria, A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution.

 

In January 2021 Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Iran sentenced Mr Ganji to 11 years imprisonment – conspiracy five years, propaganda against the system five years and membership in illegal organisation one year.

Mr Ganji suffers from a serious heart condition that requires medical care and which his family fears is being denied.

PEN Melbourne stands in solidarity with our Iranian colleagues – writers unjustly harassed and persecuted for their writing and peaceful activism. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, that is all individuals imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression or other human rights; and drop all charges that are pending against any individuals which stem solely from their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or other human rights.

PEN Melbourne calls for the Iranian authorities to immediately drop the unjust charges against Arash Ganji.  Mr Ganji has committed no crime and he should be released immediately, and provided with all necessary medical attention he requires.

PEN Melbourne International Women’s Day, 2021 Judith Rodriguez IWD Presentation Claire G. Coleman

Photo credit: Di Cousens

I would like to acknowledge that we are gathering tonight on the stolen unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and future and all Indigenous people gathered here tonight.  This land was taken by force, in a violent war. Every inch of Australia is unceded Aboriginal land.

 

These are not the sort of times I thought I would be living through in my 40s, with democracy on the decline around the world, with the United States of America, who have always presented themselves as the world’s paragon of democracy and freedom dropping downwards in almost every metric or democratic freedom. The election of a reality TV star as President of the United States over 4 years ago was a symptom of a deeper malaise, not the cause of the problems.

 

People are scared and scared people vote for strong-man leaders, it might be that democracy is not the default state of the world but, rather, something we need to work to maintain.

 

Women’s rights seem to be going backwards, the religious right, so called men’s rights activists and men who identify as “Incels” (involuntary celibates), men who can’t get sex and blame women for their situation, are fighting to remove the equal rights we have fought for. Many far-right men in what some people call the “manosphere” believe that women’s rights have gone too far, that women should not be able to choose our sexual partners, have careers, remain unmarried or childless, they don’t believe we should be allowed to vote.  These men want women’s rights reversed, want the patriarchy to regain power.

 

They have ignored what Margaret Attwood said, “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual”.

 

Worse even that that, many of these men believe that there is no patriarchy, that women are really in control despite all the overwhelming evidence.

 

I didn’t want to talk about rape but frankly in these times it seems appropriate and necessary.

 

In Australia we have a party in power who seem keen to cover up alleged rape by staffers and ministers, who have shown nothing but contempt and hate for victims of rape.  Our prime minister had to be told by his wife, Jen, to “think of their daughters” when considering rape victims. Firstly, he should not have needed to have been reminded of his daughters, secondly a man should not need daughters to know that rape is bad; you already know that – I guess our prime minister doesn’t.

use

Rape has always been a weapon of war, a tool of settler colonialism, in the early days of colonisation there is always a lack of women, the men seek indigenous women for sex, making mixed race children. We have to assume that men who don’t see the local women as human would not always ask for consent.  This has not changed, women are seen as second-class citizens, the majority of rapes don’t get reported, even when rapes are reported the majority of rapists get away with the crime.

 

Imagine how bad it was during colonisation, if men get away with rape now how can we even imagine how many men would have gotten away with rape in the black war times.  I think it’s safe to assume that most of the mixed-race children were the after effect of rape.  I am not however, as far as I know every generation back to the dawn of colonisation in my family were in consensual relationships.

 

Then we get to greater complexities, what really is consent when the power imbalance is so extreme?

 

Aboriginal women who married white men had protection, sometimes the women married to white men were the only Aboriginal women who did not die in the blak war, they survived the apocalyptic spasm of colonisation.  Being married to white men was protective but it’s impossible to determine whether or not they married white men for that reason.  It’s possible that an Aboriginal girl offered protection would do anything to keep that protection, even marry a man she has no feelings for but fear of him; and perhaps her fear of the other white men being far greater.  It’s hard to imagine this being actually a choice, it was the colonial apocalypse, a long ongoing war.

 

This could be my family, some of the earliest recorded marriages in the south coast of Western Australia were the women in my family, whose husbands kept them safe.

 

They were aware of rape, in the 1880s a girl of my Country was raped by a whitefella, her family killed that whitefella and nearly all our family were killed in reprisals.

 

Australia is not the country it thinks it is, not the country you might think it is.

 

Australia is not a happy-go-lucky, lucky country, equal and friendly and gregarious. Australia is racist and sexist and homophobic; the way the country gets away with this is by hiding what it is in plain sight.  The world, and most of Australia, believes the country’s propaganda, believes the story not the truth; some of us can see it but those of us are abused for speaking the truth.

 

Australia falls short of jailing people for being critical of the government but it is my belief we are not far from there. There are people in government who seem hell-bent on totalitarianism, on fascism or a theocracy.

 

I have to admit Australia has some things right, it’s not a particularly homophobic nation, this is perhaps one of the nations where lesbian, gay, bi and trans rights have progressed the furthest.

 

Except that the “gay panic defence”, converting murder to manslaughter if a straight man is hit on by a man, was only abolished in South Australia in November 2020.

 

Until then a straight man who thought a gay man was attracted to him could say that made him scared and, if he killed the gay man, it was a reaction to fear, a manslaughter, not cold-blooded murder.  As has been often pointed out women who fear they are in danger from men are unlikely to respond with violence and if we did we would not be able to use “I thought he was attracted to me” as a defence.

 

In fact, women have little right to safety from sexual assault, for we don’t have rights if those rights are only theoretical. It’s estimated that as many as one in 6 women are victims of sexual assault.  Most rapes go unreported, most reported rapes do not result in prosecution of the rapist.  Women will be safe from rape once a report of rape to the police can be made with a reasonable expectation of prosecution, when reporting a rape has no consequences for the victims of rape.

 

Things are even worse for trans women and women of colour. If Aboriginal women come to the attention of police even as victims of crime we tend to be punished for it.  Current statistics suggest that rather than the one in six cis women who are sexually assaulted, with trans women it’s more like one in two.

 

As things stand right now women are constantly accused of making false accusations of rape when, frankly, in rape reports, the loss of reputation and damage to status is worst for the accuser than it is for the accused.  Few women who are raped report it because of the consequences, such as slut shaming, and yet the myth that women lie about rape persists.

 

This is part of the silencing of women, particularly rape victims. It has always been the aim of settler colonialism, hegemonic systems and patriarchy, which are frankly the same thing.  That too they want to silence, the knowledge that the patriarchy and settler colonialism are hand in hand.  This is why we need to keep intersectionality in mind, the oppressive systems walk with their fingers entwined, when someone experiences more than one vector of oppression they tend to compound. It’s hard to choose which oppression to fight.

 

Intersectionality matters because erasure of voices is hierarchical, white, cis, straight male abled voices are the loudest, then white cis straight abled women, the entitled voice called out as “Karens”, then down the ladder, white cis gay men, white cis gay women, etc. then black, straight men, etc etc.

 

At the bottom of this theoretical ladder are Indigenous, trans, gay or queer disabled women. From that far down the ladder it’s pretty much impossible to even see the top.  Affirmative action, what prejudiced people call “positive discrimination’ is needed to give intersectionally disadvantaged people a chance in this society.  When affirmative action is attempted we are accused of “reverse racism” or some such thing, but reverse racism is itself a racist term and everybody using it is racist.

 

If you think about it anything that can be reversed has a correct direction, therefore the term “reverse racism” implies that racism has a correct direction.  That direction is, of course, from white people towards people of colour. Racism, to someone invoking the concept of reverse racism, is something that should be correctly applied by them to others.

 

Now, in the last few days we have been faced with the disclosure of the racism of some members of the British Royal family to Meghan Markel. If you missed it somehow an unidentified royal when told by prince Harry that Meghan was pregnant apparently mused aloud wondering how dark the child will be.

 

Should we have been shocked that the royal family of an empire that brought us racist colonialism are racists? Of course not. It’s not well known, these days, that the entire concept of “race” as we know it was invented to more easily distinguish the slave classes from the slave owners.  Racism did not always exist, it is nothing more or less than a tool of settler colonialism

 

It’s time to bring an end to racism, to bring an end to sexism, to what some people call misogynoir, the unique hate society holds for blak and Indigenous women; that potently energetic hate that has earned its own portmaneau.  Intersectionally disadvantaged women can’t do it alone but we don’t want everybody else fighting for us, Blak women want you to stand with us shoulder to shoulder.  It’s time for everybody to understand that the minorities in power need us divided, they are out-numbered.

 

_______________________________________________

Worldwide PEN International Annual Women Writers Committee Meeting

“Empowering women’s voices: Praise, solidarity and longing”,

which will be held by Zoom on March 20 and 21, 2021.

 

All PIWWC people are invited to take part. We hope that a virtual conference will permit more attendance than ever as we had a last year. There are many events scheduled over the two days of the conference and we will be able to see one another, and everyone will have a chance to speak as well.

 

General information about the meeting:

WWC Annual Meeting Online

Empowering women’s voices: Praise, solidarity and longing

20 and 21 March 2021

PEN International Women Writers Committee is organising an online meeting on women writers’ response to the anxiety that crept into our lives during and after the pandemic. We would like to put praise and solidarity, universal love, and peace into the spotlight of our meeting. Seeing democracies crumbling and human rights stripped away from us, we can show that PEN is mightier than a sword.

In two sessions, we will focus on exchange of views and ideas on the way forward, with a focus on collaborative approaches.

 

Meeting Agenda

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Day I

13:30 GMT (London time) – Opening the meeting (practice room and free chat)

14:00 – Empty Chair #1 Regina Martínez Pérez (Mexico)

14:05 – Opening keynote speech by Ma Thida (PEN Myanmar)

14:25 – WWC Chair report + Q&A

14:40 – PEN VIDA count: presentation of the project

15:00 – Center updates (3 mins per Center) with comfort break

17:00 – Closing the meeting

 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Day II

13:30 – Opening the meeting (practice room and free chat)

14:00 – Empty Chair #2 Myint Myint Zin (Myanmar)

14:05 – WWC in Centenary Archive:

“The WWC Committee’s secret pages in the PEN Digital Exhibition” by Ginevra Avalle

WWC memories by Lucina Kathmann

14:30 – PUBLIC EVENT

WOMEN WRITERS IN EXILE

Women writers in exile live a double life. One part of their mind is in their homeland, another in the land where they are building a new existence. How is it to live a double life? How can writers in exile help to advocate for the rights in their homelands? Can literature overcome the distance? We will hear about their experience of life in exile from three amazing writers.

Panellists: Maria Saba (PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile), Choman Hardi (Kurdish PEN), and Stella Nyanzi (PEN Uganda)

Moderated by Tanja Tuma (PEN Slovene)

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peninternational

15:25 – Empty Chair #3. Volha Kalackaja (Belarus)

15:30 – PUBLIC EVENT:

SILENCING WOMEN’S VOICES IN AUTOCRATIC REGIMES

The pandemic has shaken the roots of our democracies and annihilated societies that were built over decades. Freedom of speech and human rights are threatened more than ever all over the world. As a rule, writers particularly women are the first targets of the autocratic regimes. What are the methods of the autocrats trying to silence women’s literary voices? Moreover, what are women writers’ ways to persevere and fight back?

Panellists: Nadezhda Azhgikhina (PEN Moscow) and Dr Ma Thida (Myanmar PEN)

Moderated by Zoe Rodriguez (PEN Sidney)

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peninternational

16:30 – POETRY SESSION Free the Word: Empowering Women’s Voices. Poems of Celebration, Solidarity & Longing

Empty Chair #4. Gulmira Imin (Uyghur)

Every Silence Broken Buys Another Their Voice!

OPEN Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89636911672

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judyth.hill

 

Practical information

The sessions will be held online as a closed, invitation-only meeting. Further details and technical information will be communicated to confirmed participants closer to the meeting.

The sessions will be recorded by the Secretariat for reporting purposes only and will not be broadcast or published later. The public portion (public events and literary reading) will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook and recordings can be used for promotional purposes.

The consultation is organised under the Chatham House Rule, and participants are not allowed to record.

 

The sessions will be held in English only. Unfortunately, no interpretation can be provided.

We apologise for this inconvenience.

 

Link for the meeting

Don’t worry, we will resend you the invitation link 24 hours before the event.

Registration is closed.

___________________________________________

2021 International Women’s Day Event, with Claire G Coleman

PEN Melbourne, IWD Judith Rodriguez Presentation.

About this Event

Claire G. Coleman is a Wirlomin-Noongar woman who writes fiction, poetry and essays. Her debut novel Terra Nullius, won a Black&Write! Fellowship and a Norma K Hemming Award, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and an Aurealis Award. The Old Lie is Claire’s second novel and this year her first non-fiction book, Lies, Damned Lies will be out in September 2021.

Book your tickets at this link:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/2021-international-womens-day-event-with-claire-g-coleman-tickets-142992206539

Date and Time

Wed., 10 March 2021

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm AEDT

Add to Calendar

Location

Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre

251 Faraday Street

Carlton, VIC 3053

View Map

Refund Policy

Contact the organiser to request a refund.

Eventbrite’s fee is nonrefundable.

ACTION: Support for a Voice to Parliament to be Enshrined in the Constitution

International PEN Melbourne Centre

ULURU Statement from the Heart:
 

ACTION

Support for a Voice to Parliament to be Enshrined in the Constitution

The International PEN Melbourne Centre works on the lands of the the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation and we recognise that the sovereignty of these lands has never been ceded.

PEN Melbourne acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have suffered historic and ongoing silencing since the colonisation of Australia beginning in 1788.  The continuing exclusion of the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the government and legislative bodies of the Australian nation does incalculable harm in disadvantaging First Nations peoples in matters of education, justice, employment, welfare, and social and political participation. This exclusion deprives public discussion and parliamentary debate of an essential and fundamental element – the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on laws that will affect them and that will enrich the lives of all Australians.

The Australian constitution, since its inception, has served to benefit white Australians at the expense of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Enshrining the Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution will contribute to a just recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and progress the struggle for sovereignty and self-determination.

READ the Uluru Statement from the Heart

https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement

 

ACTION:

Make a submission to the Indigenous Voice co-design process

 

The closing date is 30 April 2021

 

Upload your submission at:

https://haveyoursay.voice.niaa.gov.au/

 

For assistance with creating your submission go to:

https://submission.ulurustatement.org/

 

We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

International PEN Melbourne Centre CHINA ACTION – YANG Hengjun

International PEN Melbourne Centre

Defending persecuted writers, freedom of expression and promoting cultural understanding through literature

 

CHINA ACTION

YANG Hengjun

Yang Hengjun is an Australian novelist, blogger and political commentator who is committed to the advancement of human rights and political reform in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

A keen commentator on Chinese politics and the virtues of democratic pluralism, Yang’s writing has been regularly featured in The Diplomat and his blog posts garnered a significant following on Chinese social media, earning himself the nickname of ‘Democracy Peddler’. As a novelist, he has authored a fictional spy trilogy known as the Fatal Series.

Yang was abducted by the security services when visiting the PRC with his family in January 2019, and on 7 October 2020 he was formally charged with espionage. If convicted, Yang faces a potential sentence ranging from three years’ imprisonment to the death penalty.

PEN International considers Yang Hengjun’s detention to be a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Take Action by:

  1. Sending an appeal to the Chinese authorities
  2. Telling others: share Yang’s case and his work via Twitter (see below)

In your letter request that the authorities:

  • Release Yang Hengjun immediately and unconditionally.
  • Allow Yang Hengjun’s family to leave the PRC without any restrictions.
  • Provide Yang Hengjun with unrestricted access to legal representatives of his choosing and to representatives of the Australian government.
  • End all policies that contravene the PRC government’s international human rights obligations.

Write to:

President Xi Jinping

General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China.

Address: General Secretary Office, Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100017

People’s Republic of China

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mfa_china

Ambassador CHENG Jingye

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Commonwealth of Australia

Address: 15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600, Australia.

Email: chinaemb_au@mfa.gov.cn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/China…

Ambassador ZHANG Jun

Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.

Address: 350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA.

Email: chinamissionun@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chinaambun

Tell others: share Yang Hengjun’s case and his work on Twitter:

#YangHengjun’s detention is a breach of his right to freedom of expression. I call for his immediate and unconditional release.

 

We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

World Poetry Day, PEN Campaign for 4 Poets: Maryja Martysievič, Katherine Bisquet,  Varavara Rao, Innocent Bahati

On this year’s World Poetry Day (March 21), PEN International highlights the case of four poets who risks their life, daily, through their work: Maryja Martysievič (Belarus), Katherine Bisquet (Cuba), Varavara Rao (India) and Innocent Bahati (Rwanda). PEN International calls on its members to take action so that governments fulfil their duty to guarantee freedom of expression.

 

Please find in attachment materials produced for this international day and campaign (action page, a piece by Jennifer Clement, social media messages for Sunday 21 and accompanying visuals for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). Please do support this campaign and ask your members to take action on behalf of our poets, as follows.

 

Maryja Martysievič-Monday 22

Katherine Bisquet – Tuesday 23
Varavara Rao- Wednesday 24
Innocent Bahati-Thursday 25

 

Please note that attached materials are EMBARGOED until 00:01 GMT on 21 March 2021 and should not be published before then.

Links to the action page can be found here (these will be live on Sunday morning UK time)

ENG: ENG: https://pen-international.org/campaigns/world-poetry-day

SP: https://pen-international.org/es/campaigns/Día-Mundial-de-la-Poesía

(EMBARGOED until 00:01 GMT on 21 March 2021).

World Poetry Day 2021

“We know, for poets who are incarcerated, the sun is cold and there are months between months, days between days and hours between hours. Even in the months, days, and hours, which are not on the calendar, we are working for their freedom of expression and for their freedom. Everyday members of PEN think of these poets and their suffering”.  Jennifer Clement, PEN International President.

March 21: Adopted in 1999 during the UNESCO’s 30th General Conference, World Poetry Day,  is an opportunity to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity through poetic expression, as well as an opportunity to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the convergence between poetry and other forms of arts, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media.

While poetry has the power to bring people together across continents, many poets worldwide face threats, intimidation and violence for simply speaking up, for using their voice in a way that makes governments feel uncomfortable. On this year’s World Poetry Day, PEN International highlights the case of four poets who risks their life, daily, through their work: Maryja Martysievič (Belarus), Katherine Bisquet (Cuba), Varavara Rao (India) and Innocent Bahati (Rwanda). PEN International calls on its members to take action so that governments fulfil their duty to guarantee freedom of expression.

 

Maryja Martysievič, © Ivan Besser

 

Maryja Martysievič

 

Maryja Martysievič is a Belarusian poet, writer, and literary translator, who for years has been facing repression for speaking out. She is amongst the many cultural figures in Belarus who have publicly expressed their dissent following the widely disputed presidential election of August 2020, which saw tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in peaceful protests. Since then, the Belarusian authorities have unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on human rights. Many writers and artists have been targeted, suffering arrests, beatings, destruction of instruments, and loss of jobs. As a member of the cultural resistance movement, Martysievič uses her creativity to resist oppression, by writing poetry and holding public readings and performances. PEN International calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately end attacks against writers, artists, and cultural workers in retaliation for their attempts to raise their concerns and combat injustice.

 

Take action

Support Belarusian poets by organising poetry readings and celebrating their work on your social media channels. A video of Maryja Martysievič performing alongside fellow writers is available here.

Katherine Bisquet, © Héctor Trujillo

Katherine Bisquet

 

Katherine Bisquet is one of the most prominent young Cuban writers, as well as a poet, editor and activist. She writes for El Estornudo, among other media outlets, and has recently won the Antonia Eiriz 2021 scholarship, awarded by the Instituto Internacional de Artivismo Hannna Arendt. Bisquet was harassed, detained and placed house arrest for her ideas. In November 2020, alongside other artists and activists, she gathered at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) to protest the arbitrary detention of musician Denís Solís. The MSI is a group of Cuban artists that has fought for freedom of expression and artistic freedom since 2018, when the Cuban government introduced Decree 349 which penalizes artists who work without approval by the Ministry of Culture. Bisquet is the author of books such as Something Here is Out-of-Order and Depleted Uranium.

 

Take action

Support Cuban writers, journalists and artists asking authorities to stop harassment against them and San Isidro Movement, and to repeal the Decree 349, sending letters of concern to the Cuban embassies.

 

Varavara Rao, image courtesy of Wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

Varavara Rao
Varavara Rao is a celebrated writer, poet, and Marxist activist who has been detained without trial in India since 2018. An important figure in Telugu literature, Rao is a founder of the Virasam – the Revolutionary Writers Association. Rao was among five activists who were arrested in August 2018 for their alleged role in inciting violent unrest. He has completely rejected all charges, with many viewing his detention as being politically motivated and part of a wider crackdown on activists across India. Despite falling gravely ill with COVID-19 and other health complications while detained in abhorrent conditions, Indian authorities have repeatedly denied his requests for medical bail throughout 2020. On 22 January 2021, the Bombay High Court finally granted Rao six months’ medical bail. While PEN International welcomes the court’s ruling, we remain deeply concerned over the strict conditions imposed on Rao’s temporary release, which includes prohibiting him from speaking with media and restricting his location to Mumbai despite his home being in Telangana, located over 750 kilometres away.

Take action
Ask the Indian authorities to nullify the punitive conditions attached to Varavara Rao’s temporary medical bail, and to grant Rao indefinite compassionate release.

Narendra Modi

Role: Prime Minister of India
Address:  E Block, E Block, Central Secretariat, New Delhi, Delhi 110011, India
Twitter: https://twitter.com/narendramodi
Contact: https://pmopg.gov.in/pmocitizen/Grievancepmo.aspx

Amit Shah

Role: Union Home Minister of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
Address: Ministry of Home Affairs, North Block, New Delhi 110001, India.
Email: contact@amitshah.co.in

 

Innocent Bahati © Andrea Grieder

Innocent Bahati

Innocent Bahati is a popular Rwandan poet known for his open and critical expression on social issues. He publishes his poetry on YouTube and Facebook and regularly performs at poetry events. Bahati has been missing since 07 February 2021. After two days of trying to establish his whereabouts, his friends reported Bahati’s disappearance to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau who said Bahati was not in their custody and that they were investigating the matter. Friends and associates of Bahati believe that his disappearance is in relation to his critical poetry, particularly his recent poems: ‘Hunger’; ‘Poverty’; and ‘Long Regulations’. It is reported that before Bahati went missing, a prominent pro-government public figure had posted a comment on Facebook linking Bahati’s views to President Paul Kagame’s critics who continue to face repression for their dissenting voices. In 2017, Bahati had similarly disappeared after he posted a poem on Facebook only to reappear in police custody. PEN is investigating what appears to be Bahati’s enforced disappearance. A video of ‘Rubebe’, one of Innocent Bahati’s poems, is available here.

 

Take action

Ask the Rwandan authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Innocent Bahati and to guarantee his safety, wellbeing and right to life. Send a message to President Paul Kagame and to the Secretary General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Jeannot K. Ruhunga.

 

Paul Kagame

Role: President of the Republic of Rwanda

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaulKagame

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PresidentPaulKagame/

Email: info@gov.rw

 

Jeannot K. Ruhunga

Role: Secretary General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RIB_RW

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rwanda-Investigation-Bureau

Email: info@rib.gov.rw

 

Notes to PEN Centres:

  • The images used for this campaign can be re-used and shared by PEN Centres.

Notes to editors:

  • PEN International activities to celebrate World Poetry Day, are part of a series of events planned throughout 2021 to mark PEN International’s Centenary. Founded in 1921 by English writer Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, PEN International has spent 100 years celebrating literature and protecting freedom of expression. You can stand up for persecuted writers by making a donation