PEN America celebrates the release of Turkish Journalist and Artist, Zehra Doğan

“Art should never be a crime. [Zehra] Doğan is a model of courage for all journalists and artists for standing up against injustice and silence, especially because of her determination to work and create while incarcerated.” Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America



Last week PEN America celebrated the release of Turkish painter, journalist and feminist activist, incarcerated Zehra Doğan (Free Zehra Doğan • Zehra Doğan’a özgürlük). Doğan was released on February 24 after spending 600 days in a Turkish jail after courts deemed her journalistic and artistic work to be “terrorist propaganda.”

Doğan was the editor of Jin News Agency (JINHA), a feminist Kurdish news agency. She was arrested on July 21, 2016, and detained until December 2016 when she was released pending trial. On March 7, 2017, Doğan was sentenced to prison for 2 years, 10 months and 22 days on charges of “terrorist propaganda” as a result of her reporting, social media posts, and her paintings about the Turkish military’s operations in the largely Kurdish town of Nusaybin. The indictment stated that one of her paintings, which depicted a real-life scene of Turkish flags on war-torn buildings and was based on a photo circulated by the Turkish military on social media, went ‘beyond the limits of criticism.’ JINHA was also shut down as part of the government crackdown following an attempted coup in 2016.

“We are delighted that Zehra has been released and reunited with family and friends after her unjust imprisonment, which was an appalling affront to free expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Art should never be a crime. Doğan is a model of courage for all journalists and artists for standing up against injustice and silence, especially because of her determination to work and create while incarcerated. Many other journalists in Turkey remain behind bars. As we celebrate Zehra’s release, we call for the release of all other Turkish journalists, artists, and activists who are in prison for their journalism or their expression.”

While imprisoned, Doğan rigorously continued to work on her paintings using diverse media including pomegranate shells, tincture of iodine, and bedsheets, despite restricted access to painting materials. Following her release, she told BBC Turkish that she had never painted as much as she did in prison. Also while in prison, she founded the 8-page handmade newspaper Özgür Gündem Zindan (Free Agenda Dungeon) with the help of several of her fellow inmates. As an inmate, Doğan received public support from numerous human rights organizations and renowned artists, including the graffiti artist Banksy and prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. During her imprisonment, Doğan became the second woman in Turkey to receive the International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism” award. She also received the Freethinker Prize from the Swiss Freethinker Association. Most recently, Doğan was shortlisted in the Arts category for the Index on Censorship Awards 2019.

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Post and photograph courtesy of PEN America.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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More than 100 writers, artists, and activists call on the United Nations for an investigation of Jamal Khashoggi’s Death

Jamal Khashoggi,Saudi journalist, Global Opinions columnist for the Washington Post, and former editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel. Photo: Khashoggi offers remarks during POMED’s “Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look”. March 21, 2018, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Washington, DC. / Courtesy of April Brady / POMED – Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia: A Deeper Look under CC BY 2.0 license

It was painful for me several years ago when several friends were arrested. I said nothing. I didn’t want to lose my job or my freedom. I worried about my family. I have made a different choice now. I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison.”  Jamal Khashoggi



PEN America nonprofit logo under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pen America announced last Friday that more than 100 writers, journalists, artists, and activists are calling on the United Nations to initiate an independent investigation into the disappearance and apparent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Marking a month since his disappearance and on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the writers and artists issued an open letter demanding that those responsible be brought to justice.

Literary and artistic luminaries and leading journalists, including J.K. Rowling, Bob Woodward, Meryl Streep, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, Arundhati Roy, Patrick Stewart, Chimamanda Adichie, Tom Stoppard, and Mario Vargas Llosa, have signed a letter calling on António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to launch a thorough and independent investigation into the disappearance and apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi in order to uncover the truth and lay the groundwork for those responsible to be held accountable.

The letter reads: “The violent murder of a prominent journalist and commentator on foreign soil is a grave violation of human rights and a disturbing escalation of the crackdown on dissent in Saudi Arabia, whose government in recent years has jailed numerous writers, journalists, human rights advocates, and lawyers in a sweeping assault on free expression and association. It is also yet another data point in a global trend that has seen an increasing number of journalists imprisoned and murdered for their work. As writers and journalists ourselves, we fear the potential chilling effect of this trend, at a moment when the work of all those who would speak and expose the truth has never been more important.”

The letter also cites the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed in 2012, which states that attacks on journalists “[deprive] society as a whole of their journalistic contribution and [result] in a wider impact on press freedom where a climate of intimidation and violence leads to self censorship.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was intended not just to silence one man, but to intimidate and suppress voices of dissent across borders,” said Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs. “As such, it poses a threat not just to journalists, and not just to critics of the Saudi government, but to all those who would stand up for human rights and for the truth. China and Russia have already demonstrated a willingness to engage in extra-territorial and extra-judicial attacks on their critics; with Saudi Arabia joining that list, the threat to free expression globally is grave. In the face of such a vile and dangerous act, it is critical that the international community respond with fortitude and clarity in defense of journalists, and in defense of freedom of expression as a whole. The United Nations must lead that charge.”

Since Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Turkish government has repeatedly claimed to have evidence he was tortured, murdered, and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Although Saudi authorities denied any knowledge of his whereabouts for two weeks after his disappearance, they subsequently admitted he had been killed inside the consulate, but offered an implausible explanation, suggesting that an attempt to detain Khashoggi went awry. Turkey and Saudi Arabia both claim to be investigating the case.

Jamal Khashoggi began his journalism career as a correspondent for the Saudi Gazette newspaper. Although once close to the inner circles of the Saudi royal family, he was gradually subjected to rigorous censorship by Saudi authorities. Concerned about his safety in Saudi Arabia following a crackdown on free expression that began in 2016 under the new Crown Prince, he went into self-imposed exile and moved to the United States in 2017. That September, he began reporting for the Washington Post as a columnist, where he continued to do so until his disappearance. On September 28, Khashoggi made his first trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in order to inquire about the acquisition of documents needed for his second marriage. He disappeared on October 2, after returning to the building based on instructions provided to him.

PEN America Washington Director Thomas O. Melia spoke at a memorial service for Jamal Khashoggi in Washington, D. C. on Friday, November 2. More information is available here.

The open letter is available here.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its stated mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org


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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and the associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.

My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The River Journal, The Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman

Take Action: Defend Standing Rock Reporter Jenni Monet

tumblr_okv1lt81ku1qflj9ao1_1280This message is from PEN Center U.S.A. Feel free to re-blog or link to this post.

The information for this campaign was sourced from The Los Angeles Times and the High Country News

PEN Center USA objects to the arrest and the charges made against Native American journalist Jenni Monet (her website), who was covering protests against the North Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.

“Monet was wearing press credentials as she covered ongoing protests near the Standing Rock reservation. She provided her credentials to an officer when asked, but was arrested Feb. 1, at 4 p.m., Central, near protest encampments along Highway 1806. Monet was held for about thirty hours and was not released until 9 p.m., Feb. 2. She faces charges of criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot from Morton County prosecutors.” High Country News

A statement was released by Indian Country Today Media Network reiterating her press credentials.

We call on Wayne Stenehjem District Attorney of North Dakota to drop these charges immediately.

Take Action – Please Sign

The first amendment rights of journalists and free press liberties are in danger. Please join us in demanding that the District Attorney of North Dakota drop these charges immediately. ADD your name to the petition that will be sent to Wayne Stenehjem, District Attorney of North Dakota, and Allen Kopp, Morton County State’s Attorney.

“I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.” Margaret Atwood

ORWELL MATTERS, “A Little Poem” and … “Power is not a means. It’s an end.”

George Orwell (1903-1950), BBC Photograph in the public domain an curtesy of Penguin Books, India

George Orwell (1903-1950), BBC Photograph in the public domain, curtesy of Penguin Books, India

A LITTLE POEM

A happy vicar I might have been
Two hundred years ago
To preach upon eternal doom
And watch my walnuts grow;

But born, alas, in an evil time,
I missed that pleasant haven,
For the hair has grown on my upper lip
And the clergy are all clean-shaven.

And later still the times were good,
We were so easy to please,
We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep
On the bosoms of the trees.

All ignorant we dared to own
The joys we now dissemble;
The greenfinch on the apple bough
Could make my enemies tremble.

But girl’s bellies and apricots,
Roach in a shaded stream,
Horses, ducks in flight at dawn,
All these are a dream.

It is forbidden to dream again;
We maim our joys or hide them:
Horses are made of chromium steel
And little fat men shall ride them.

I am the worm who never turned,
The eunuch without a harem;
Between the priest and the commissar
I walk like Eugene Aram;

And the commissar is telling my fortune
While the radio plays,
But the priest has promised an Austin Seven,
For Duggie always pays.

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls,
And woke to find it true;
I wasn’t born for an age like this;
Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

– George Orwell


POWER IS NOT A MEANS. IT’S AN END.

The current state of affairs has many pulling 1984 and Animal Farm off their bookshelves, dusting them off and reading them again, probably for the first time since school days.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” George Orwell, 1984


51fgdfc5bl-_sx315_bo1204203200_Eric Arthur Blair (pen name George Orwell) “was born in 1903 in Motihari, Bengal, in the then British colony of India, where his father, Richard, worked for the Opium Department of the Civil Service. His mother, Ida, brought him to England at the age of one. He did not see his father again until 1907, when Richard visited England for three months before leaving again until 1912. Eric had an older sister named Marjorie and a younger sister named Avril. With his characteristic humour, he would later describe his family’s background as “lower-upper-middle class.” MORE