Honorary Members of PEN Melbourne
PEN Melbourne Honorary Members
International PEN Melbourne Centre invites writers in prison and writers at risk to become honorary members when it is appropriate to do so. PEN Melbourne makes a long-term amplify these cases and raise the profiles of honorary members. We campaign for their release and raise awareness of the dire situations they face in prison.
PEN Melbourne has campaigned for the writers below over many years. We are honoured by having them as honorary members.
The PEN Melbourne committee decides to support a particular writer at risk. Since 2020 we have focused on writers at risk in these countries: Iran, Turkey, Cambodia. This is due to our strong connections we have developed over many years. There are times when we have invited writers from other countries to be honorary members.
We then contact the person inviting them to become an Honorary Member and explaining what will do to support them.
If the writer accepts, we notify PEN International, and begin the campaign work on their behalf: letter writing to authorities, frequent messaging on social media and
amplifying their case as widely as possible.
When appropriate and safe to do so we correspond with the writer to offer moral and practical support.
Julian Assange faces a 175-year prison sentence if extradited from the UK to face espionage charges in the USA.PEN International strongly condemn this attack on press freedom. Prosecuting someone for simply receiving and publishing information sends a dangerous message to journalists and publishers worldwide.
Nedim Türfent is a journalist and poet. Nedim was imprisoned in Turkey on trumped-up terrorism charges from December 2017, more than 18 months after his arrest, and released in November 2022. PEN Melbourne members have written to Nedim on several occasions during his time in prison and we have received spirited and enthusiastic replies written from his prison cell. Here is a letter we received in 2021. Nedim Türfent became an honorary member in June 2021.
Wajeha al-Huwaider is an activist, journalist and writer who has long campaigned for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. In June 2013, efforts to curb her rights work saw her sentenced by a Saudi court to 10 months in prison and banned from traveling outside of the country for two years following completion of her prison term. According to an article published on 4 September 2015 in The Guardian, al-Huwaider and other activists were informed in June that they were able to travel freely again and that they would not have to serve their sentence in prison.
Well-known Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu has campaigned for free expression for decades. He was arrested on 28 October 2011 and is facing trial under the ATL for “membership of an illegal organisation”, reportedly for a speech he made to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and for articles he has written.
Respected academic and writer in Turkey, Busra Erslani is an expert on constitutional law and had been working with the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)’s Constitutional Commission when she was arrested on the same day as Ragip Zarakolu. She is still on trial in Turkey. The last action PEN did on her behalf was in 2014
Radzina was arrested by the KGB on 19 December 2010 during the mass detentions that followed protests against the results of Belarus’ flawed presidential elections. Her passport was confiscated and she had to report to local police daily. Facing charges which could lead to lengthy imprisonment, she fled Belarus and sought asylum in Poland Editor-in-chief of the pro-opposition news website Charter 97, Radina still receives regular death threats from the Belarusian government. Radina’s willingness to honestly and fearlessly report on the corruption, human rights violations, and wrongdoings of the Belarusian government defines her life. It has earned her the respect of her peers and numerous awards, including the 2011 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. It has also drawn the ire of the Lukashenko regime, put her life in danger, and forced her out of the country she loves.
Seedy Bojang is a journalist and writer from The Gambia. After the closure of independent newspapers in The Gambia, Seedy was briefly employed by the government-supported Gambia newspaper. His employment was terminated because he would not write articles supporting the government. In 2007 PEN International assisted Seedy to receive a residency in Copenhagen. Since that time Seedy has received a doctorate and works as a writer, researcher and educator. He is no longer at risk.
Lucina is an International Vice President of PEN and has had a long association with the San Miguel de Allende PEN Centre in Mexico. She helped establish PEN’s Women Writers’ Committee, continues to be its strongest supporter.
After facing years of repression in Iran, Rosa has made a new life in Melbourne. She is the author and illustrator of eight children’s books, a painter, an organiser of musical gatherings, and is currently completing an Iranian cookbook. In 2009 she published her book Where is the justice? Stories from behind closed doors.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist and writer who escaped Iran in fear of persecution due to his work, preserving Kurdish culture. While detained by the Australian government on Manus Island from 2013 to 2019 he wrote No Friend But The Mountain with collaborator Orid Tofighian. The book won The Victorian Premier’s Prize for Nonfiction. Behrouz Boochani became the voice of the Manus detainees, writing regularly for The Guardian, speaking of the mental torture caused by being deprived of hope. In 2020 he was given asylum in New Zealand. Behrouz continues to write and publish, remains active as a human rights defender, and is recognised as such by the UN.
PEN Melbourne have given Life Membership to Behrouz Boochani.
Judith Rodriguez (1936 – 2018)
Lucina Kathmann, PEN International Vice-President, Mexico PEN