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PEN Melbourne Statement on Iran

November 28, 2019 IN WIP
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Mammad Aidani

Iran – Out of sight, out of mind?
PEN Melbourne Statement on Iran, 26 November 2019
Mammad Aidani, PEN Melbourne Committee Member

PEN International has condemned the Iranian government’s persecution of its citizens on the basis of their language,
literature, and culture. Iran is especially notorious for its jailing and torture of writers, such as journalists, Narges
Mohammadi, Mohammad Mosaed, and Masoud Kazemi among many others. The latter was told by the judge at his trial:
‘Your hands should be crushed . . . your pens should be broken’.

More recent events have resulted in hundreds of deaths, yet why have Australians heard so little in the media about
what has been happening? Is it because the Iranian regime has blocked the Internet, depriving news organisations of
images as well as first-hand accounts of what has been happening? Does out of sight have to mean out of mind?
Iranian citizens want to live in an open, democratic society in which they can work and live in peace. The Islamic regime
(in power since 1979), has never allowed its citizens to experience these basic human rights, and in recent days many
have taken to the streets to fiercely protest against the authorities.

In response to the government’s 50% increase in fuel prices – making life almost impossible for many – demonstrations
began in Ahvaz and quickly spread to over 100 cities in the country. On 19 November, Amnesty International confirmed
that ‘at least 106 protesters in 21 cities have been killed, according to credible reports’. The actual numbers of those
killed or injured by the government forces are not known. Witnesses have indicated that, in the city of Shahriyar alone in
first days of clashes, 70 people were killed, reporting that plainclothes forces in the crowds shot people from behind.
PEN International Melbourne Centre, is deeply concerned about the silence in much of the Australian media in the face
of the tragic events unfolding in Iran. This silence is catastrophic. During the last six days, massacres have been taking
place throughout Iran, and we and the rest of the world need to know why. It is unacceptable that a lack of dramatic
images and ‘talent’ (due to Iranian blocking of the Internet) mean that these atrocities are not fully covered in the media.

The Iranian Islamic Regime has been using extreme violence to deny its citizens the fundamental human right of
freedom of expression for over 40 years. The last six days have been the worst days of these years. The violent clashes
of the last six days between government forces and demonstrators have been happening in over 100 cities without the
presence of international media or access to the Internet. Ayatollah Khamenei has accused demonstrators of being
‘thugs’ who want to destroy the government. Hossein Shariat-Medari, the chief editor of Kyhann daily newspaper has
stated that the murderous response of the regime is legitimate, describing it as a war between believers and infidels.
Without a responsible and fearless media in Australia and elsewhere, it is only the voice of the repressive regime which
is being seen and heard.

Out of sight should not mean out of mind.

We urge the Australian media – as well as the government – to acknowledge and respond to the tragedies that have
been unfolding in Iran at this critical time. The hands of Iranian writers and citizens should not be crushed. Their pens
shall not be broken.


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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International