Posts Tagged ‘writer’

Behrouz Boochani gives interview in New Zealand – finally out of Manus island

December 1, 2019

Boochani in 2018 outside an abandoned naval base on Manus Island where he was kept for three years. Photo/Getty Images

On 28 November, 2019 Sally Blundel inteviewed Iranian asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani. The award winning refugee [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/04/manus-island-detainee-behrouz-boochani-wins-major-literary-prize-putting-more-pressure-on-detention-policy/] was invited to New Zealand. Where he will be after his month-long visa expires, he cannot say, but he will still write, he says, this time a novel. “Because literature has the power to give us freedom. Because through literature we can challenge the power structure.”

In a quiet suburban Christchurch garden, Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer, poet and film-maker Behrouz Boochani, cigarette in hand, paces out three large steps. “We lived in a very small room, from here to here, four of us. On Manus you didn’t have privacy or space. Finding the time and quiet to write was the hardest thing.”

But find time he did, to write poems and articles, film a documentary on a smartphone and tap out an entire book, furtively sent paragraph by paragraph via What’sApp text messages, chronicling the squalid conditions, medical neglect, mental anguish, suicide, even murder, experienced by asylum seekers held on Manus Island under Australia’s “stop the boats” policy.

It is six years since Boochani was pulled from a sinking boat just days out of Indonesia and taken to Australia’s “offshore processing centre” on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. It is just over a week since he left Port Moresby to fly to Auckland, taking a route that avoided Australia, to speak at Christchurch’s WORD book festival as a free man. “I got my freedom through literature,” he says.

Boochani knows the power of words. As a journalist in Iran in 2013, he reported on the arrest and detention of his colleagues on Kurdish-language magazine Werya in Ilam, north-west Iran. His fellow journalists were eventually released – they attributed their survival to Boochani’s article – but by then he was in danger. He fled, travelling through South-east Asia to Indonesia where, in July that year, he was among a group of 75 men, women and children who boarded an unseaworthy boat heading for Australia. The vessel’s bilge pump failed in rough seas. When rescued by the Royal Australian Navy, Boochani requested asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia is a party. Instead, he and his fellow asylum seekers were incarcerated on Christmas Island before being transferred to the Manus Island detention centre as part of Australia’s “Pacific Solution II”.

………To write his book, he adopted a new routine, sleeping from 6pm until 11pm when everyone was too busy to note his absence. From 11pm, he would write under the blankets until 8am, then sleep until noon. In 2016, after the PNG Supreme Court declared the indefinite detention of asylum seekers to be unlawful, phones were no longer prohibited. Each night, he would sit outside, smoking, writing, absorbing as much of the natural environment as he could from his side of the prison fence. “For the prisoner who is alone, nature is so important,” he says. “Always, it is a place you can escape to – even the sky, they cannot take the sky away. But it is very harsh to look up at the many birds flying and knowing you cannot follow them.”

….

“If someone asked me to write this book again, of course I am able to write it, but I could not write it this way. When I describe starving, I was starving. When I describe the characters, those people were around me in prison. It is the same with the feelings. In that camp people rely on each other; there’s a culture of brotherhood because there is no space, but there’s also a kind of hatred because you are so tired of having so many other people around you. I have lost those feelings now, but in prison they were true feelings.”

Boochani in Christchurch. Photo/Getty Images

Through articles sent to the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Refugees Action Collective and the United Nations, and the support of a global network of writers, translators, academics and activists, including Australia’s Janet Galbraith, founder of online project Writing Through Fences, Boochani refused to let the thousands of asylum seekers sent to Manus Island and Nauru fade from public gaze. In 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described Australia’s offshore processing centres as “unsustainable, inhumane and contrary to human rights” (New Zealand’s offers under National first, then Labour, to settle at least 150 detainees were rejected by successive Australian prime ministers).

……

Plea for release

But within the camp the book also drew attention to Boochani himself. This year, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union for Australia’s creative professionals, sent an open letter to the Government of Scott Morrison urging Boochani’s release. Signed by prominent journalists and writers, including Tom Keneally Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas, Kate Grenville and Nobel laureate JM Coetzee, it said, “We are deeply concerned for Behrouz Boochani’s welfare and safety. The success of his book and his status as a journalist have made him a target of the Manus authorities; a danger that has only increased with his rising profile.”

In June, WORD Christchurch programme director Rachael King invited Boochani to speak at a special festival event. Especially after the city’s March 15 mosque shootings, she explained, “it felt important to share the stories of refugees”.

With help from author Lloyd Jones, whose recent book The Cage is itself a dark parable about the human capacity for inhumanity, she was able to email her invitation directly to Boochani. Boochani was receptive to the idea. By then he was one of more than 300 people moved from Manus Island to Port Moresby. He was hoping to be part of Australia’s “refugee swap” deal with the US (he was later accepted for this programme), but he wanted to wait until the Manus Island camp was finally closed.

“It would have been immoral for me to leave those people in Manus, to create a platform and have this privilege and this recognition, because it is about all our resistance – it was not only for me.”

In October, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, told Parliament “we’ve completely closed” the Manus Island facility. By then, only three asylum seekers were left on the island. The remaining detainees still in Papua New Guinea were in Port Moresby, including a reported 46 held in Bomana Prison.

In memoriam Hungarian author György Konrád – age 86

September 15, 2019

Featured photo by Lajos Soós/MTI
MTI-Hungary Today reported on 14 September 2019 that Hungarian author, essayist and sociologist György Konrád died on Friday 13 September at the age of 86. He was one of the best-known representatives of Hungarian prose around the world, with works translated into many languages.

Born in Debrecen in 1933, Konrád survived the Holocaust in a safe house in Budapest. He graduated as a teacher from Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University in 1956. After serving in the National Guard during the 1956 revolution, he made his living through ad hoc jobs for a few years. In 1959 he got full-time state employment, working as a children’s welfare supervisor until 1965. The experience amassed during this time served as the basis for his first novel The Case Worker. He was working closely with urban sociologist Iván Szelényi with whom he wrote a book on the sociological problems of new housing estates.

Citing political reasons, the communist authorities banned the publication of his second novel, The City Builder. After losing his job in 1973, Konrád, together with Szelényi, wrote The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, a sociological analysis of political history questioning workers’ rule in then Hungary. The political police, however, confiscated the manuscript and arrested the authors for incitement against the state. They were informed that they would be permitted to emigrate with their families. Szelényi accepted the offer, while Konrád remained in Hungary, choosing internal emigration.

He published in Hungarian samizdat and through western publishing houses. Virtually from this period until 1989, Konrád was a forbidden author in Hungary, deprived of all legal income. In 1987-88 he taught world literature at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

In the 1980s Konrád was member of the Democratic Opposition and in 1988 became a founder of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). In 1990 he was elected president of PEN International, holding the post full time until 1993. Between 1997 and 2003, Konrád was twice elected president of Berlin-Brandenburg’s Akademie der Kuenste. His long list of awards included the peace prize of PEN International (1991), the French Legion of Honour (1996), the Charlemagne Prize (2001) and the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award (2007).

 

Author György Konrád Dies Aged 86

 

Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie accepts PEN Pinter prize: wants to speak out

October 16, 2018

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie accepts PEN Pinter prize with call to speak out. Arguing that authors have a duty to ‘call a lie a lie’, the Nigerian novelist also names human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair as the 2018 International Writer of Courage.  in the Guardian of 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pictured at the Women in the World Summit in 2017.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie pictured at the Women in the World Summit in 2017. Photograph: Matteo Prandoni/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock

The Nigerian novelist was described by the Jury as “sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race, and global inequality”. In her acceptance lecture at the British Library, Adichie said that while writers should not necessarily speak out on political issues, she did not believe “that art is a valid reason for evading the responsibilities of citizenship – which are to think clearly, to remain informed, and, sometimes, to act and speak”.

…The award-winning novelist revealed how she has been criticised in Nigeria for speaking out about its law criminalising homosexuality, and for her efforts to start a “much-needed conversation” about women’s rights in the country….

Adichie said that she did not choose to speak out about social issues because she is a writer. “But my writing gave me a platform to speak about issues that I have always cared about,” she said. “I do not want to use my art as an armour of neutrality behind which to hide. I am a writer and I am a citizen, and I see my speaking out on social issues as a responsibility of citizenship. I am struck by how often this speaking out is met, in Nigeria, not with genuine engagement, whether to agree or disagree, but with a desire to silence me. A journalist once helpfully summed it up for me: people don’t like it when you talk about feminism, they just want you to shut up and write.”

At the ceremony, Adichie named the lawyer and human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair as this year’s International Writer of Courage, a title awarded by the PEN Pinter winner each year. Abulkhair, a founding member of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia .

Waleed Abulkhair pictured in 2012.
Pinterest Waleed Abulkhair pictured in 2012. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Waleed has dedicated his life to holding the Saudi authorities accountable for human rights abuses,” said Adichie. “He has dedicated his life to speaking out, to supporting the victims of those abuses. Waleed, like Harold Pinter, has shown a lucid dedication to telling his truth. But rather than being lauded for this dedication, Waleed has paid a heavy price – 15 years behind bars.” She said she was deeply proud to share the prize with Abulkhair, “and I hope that this small act of solidarity will bring him some comfort, and will remind him that his struggle has not been forgotten, nor will it be in vain.”

Previous recipients of the International writer of courage include Bangladeshi publisher and writer Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, also known as Tutul; and Italian investigative journalist Roberto Saviano.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/09/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-accepts-pen-pinter-prize-with-call-to-speak-out

Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate 1986, dies at the age of 87

July 3, 2016

ASSOCIATED PRESS Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel died on Saturday aged 87.

Activist and writer Elie Wiesel, the World War Two death camp survivor who won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for becoming the life-long voice of millions of Holocaust victims, has died, Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem said on Saturday 2 July 2016.  Wiesel, a philosopher, speaker, playwright and professor who also campaigned for the tyrannized and forgotten around the world, was 87.

The Romanian-born Wiesel lived by the credo expressed in “Night,” his landmark story of the Holocaust – “to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

In awarding the Peace Prize, the Nobel Committee praised Wiesel as a “messenger to mankind” and “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.” Elie Wiesel went on to receive another 6 human rights awards, including one named after himself.

Source: Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor And Nobel Laureate, Dead At 87

India: Human Rights Defenders being silenced by the court?

January 17, 2016

Pushkar Raj (who taught political science in Delhi University and was the National General Secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in India and is now based in Melbourne) published a piece entitled “Who will speak for the Human Rights Defenders?” in Samaj Weekly and reproduced by TwoCircles.net on 17 January 2016.  In this piece he concludes that the Bombay high court judgment cancelling Prof. Sai Baba’s bail and initiating contempt proceedings against the writer Arundhati Roy is a major blow to the human rights defenders in India and a departure from the courts’ support to the cause of human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

Somali Human Rights Defender Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim receives Oxfam Novib/PEN Award For Freedom Of Expression

February 24, 2014

Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a participant in the Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders At Risk at the Centre for Applied Human Rights at York University, was jailed in his native Somalia in 2013 after he interviewed a woman who claimed she was raped by government security forces. On 21 February 2014 he was honored as the recipient of the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award For Freedom Of Expression which recognises writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue to write

via Persecuted journalist in spotlight at University of York From York Press.

http://www.pen-international.org/oxfam-novibpen-award-for-freedom-of-expression/

More known about HRD Du Bin in detention in China thanks to Hu Jia

June 20, 2013

Du Jirong, sister of human rights activist Du Bin, holds up a sign saying “Du Bin is innocent.” outside the Fengtai District Public Security Bureau. (China Human Rights Defenders)

(Du Jirong, sister of human rights activist Du Bin, with sign saying “Du Bin is innocent” outside the Fengtai District Public)

The 41-year-old photographer and filmmaker Du Bin disappeared on May 31, weeks after he had released a documentary on the extreme conditions of Chinese labor camps in May, called Women Above Ghosts’ Heads. His film focused on Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp where many detainees were Read the rest of this entry »

PEN Prize to Honor Jailed Turkish Translator Ayşe Berktay

May 21, 2013

(Ayşe Berktay in Bakırköy Women’s Prison – Photo courtesy Ali Berktay)

On 15 April 2013 PEN American Center  named Ayşe Berktay, a translator, writer, and activist in Turkey, as the recipient of its 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Berktay, a leading advocate for peace, women’s rights, and Kurdish rights in Turkey, was arrested on October 3, 2011, and is currently being tried for “membership in an illegal organization” for her pro-Kurdish cultural advocacy. One of at least 130 writers currently in prison or on trial in Turkey, many on false terrorism-related charges, she could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Read the rest of this entry »