Saturday 15 November is Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an annual, international day recognizing, remembering and supporting writers who exert their right to freedom of expression despite repression. The day was initiated by PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee in 1981, and PEN uses the occasion to highlight a handful of persecuted or imprisoned writers from around the world individually each year.
This year, PEN International brings a letter of solidarity from Yann Martel to Kyrgyz imprisoned writer Azimjon Askarov, as a reminder of the many writers imprisoned for their work across the world. Azimjon Askarov is imprisoned for reporting on police corruption, and is one of five imprisoned writers PEN International advocates especially for this November. The other imprisoned writers in this year’s Campaign are Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse, a poet from Cameroon; Gao Yu, a journalist from the People’s Republic of China; Mahvash Sabet, a poet and teacher from the Islamic Republic of Iran; and Nelson Aguilera, a teacher and writer from Paraguay.
PEN International calls for the unconditional release of the five imprisoned writers, and urges activists across the globe to do the same. The organization coordinates letters of appeal and support for the imprisoned writers, whilst at the same time drawing attention to the scores of other writers who are imprisoned, executed and tortured for defending their right to freedom of expression.
PEN Català - the Word Burns the Fire
Several other actors are also hosting events in relation to this year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
PEN Català keeps a steady focus on imprisoned writers from 14-22 November, dedicating a whole week to events focusing on the works of writers who have been imprisoned or forced into exile due to their literary activity. PEN Català’s series of events is called "The Word Burns the Fire", and includes a poetry reading from texts by persecuted writers, entitled “Breaking Down the Bars”. The reading features ICORN writers Dessale Berekhet (Ethiopia) and Basem Al-Nabris (Palestine) amongst others. The poets will be reading at the Biblioteca Municipal de Lloseta, Mallorca on Friday 14 November, and in Maò and Ciutadella on Menorca on Saturday 15 November and Friday 21 November respectively. Cinta Arasa (coordinator of the Persecuted Writers Committee) and Miquel Àngel Llauger (Vice President of PEN Català) will chair the events.
Friday 14 November’s programme in Mallorca also includes a dinner on the occasion of the Fifth International Free Voice Prize-Catalan PEN in the Balearic Islands, awarded to a writer that has been or is persecuted due to his/her writings. The statuette awarded to the winning writer is created by local sculptor Pep Coll Bernat.
Tuesday 18 November, PEN Català invites journalist Amàlia Garrigosa (Valencia), writer/journalist Pere Antoni Pons (Balearic Islands) and culture journalist Toni Puntí (Catalonia) to a roundtable discussion on The Presence of Literature in the Media at 7:30 p.m. Venue is the Conference Room of VilaWeb in Barcelona, please see PEN Català’s website for more information.
Saturday 22 November holds the Eighth Meeting of Writers for Peace with a screening of the film Soy Cuba (1964) by Russian director Mikhail Kalatozov and live music by Matuke. The event will end with a discussion about censorship moderated by Gisela Pou, screenwriter and member of the GAC Board. Time is 6 p.m., venue is the Guinovart Foundation, Market Square, Agramunt.
Nasrin Madani and Maria Bäcke at the Olofström Library, Sweden
Also in relation to the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, ICORN guest writer in Växjö, Nasrin Madani, will be discussing the current conditions for freedom of expression with Maria Bäcke at the Olofström Library on Thursday 13 November at 6 p.m.
Maria Bäcke holds a Phd in TechnoScience, teaches at the University of Kristianstad, Sweden, and studies power relations online and in literature. Nasrin Madani is an Iranian writer, critic and editor. She holds a master’s degree in Persian literature from the University of Teheran and has written a large number of articles and reviews on poetry. She wrote her first novel when she was 18, and has received numerous awards for her short stories; among others, the Sadegh Hedayat prize in 2007. Her two latest short story collections were forbidden published by the Iranian authorities, and she was forced into exile due to her literary activity. She arrived in Växjö in 2012 as the city’s first guest writer.
ACEC and Artwork Africa's essay project
Coinciding with the Day of the Imprisoned Writer is the African Creative Economy Conference (ACEC). The Conference is an annual project of the Arterial Network, a Pan-African civil society network of artists, cultural activists, enterprises, NGOs and others active in the creative sector. The ACEC highlights the role of culture in sustainable development, aiming to provide a practical analysis and reflective overview of the current status of the African creative economy. This year's Conference is held in Rabat, Morocco, from 13-15 November, and also marks the launch of Artwork Africa's essay project on Freedom of Creative Expression, featuring ICORN writer Chenjerai Hove. Read his contribution, Beautiful Words are Subversive, here.