November 2016: Mohammad Habeeb

mohammad-habeeb-1Mohammad Habeeb (b.1961) is a Syrian translator, poet, and writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the English department of Tishreen University in Lattakia, Syria. After more than fifteen years’ experience as a translator and interpreter (working primarily in Arabic and English), Habeeb has translated a number of well-known literary and theoretical works, including the writings of T.S. Eliot, José Saramago, Khaled Hosseini, James Kelman, Carl Gustave Jung, Erich Fromm, Terry Eagleton, and Moris Farhi. Habeeb has worked as a teacher in Syria, teaching writing and translation techniques to junior university students. For the past ten years, he has been working as a freelance translator, and continues to conduct research, translations, and aids in drafting campaigns for Reprieve, a UK-based charity organization. He is a member of the Syrian Writers Union, a society for translators, and he also works as an editor and advisor to a publishing house in Lattakia.

In 1989, Habeeb co-founded the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), and became the co-editor of the organization’s underground magazine, The Voice of Democracy. CDF was primarily established to repeal Syria’s state of emergency from 1963, when the Baath party came into power as the result of a military coup.

In 1991, Habeeb was arrested together with several other activists, and sentenced to 9-10 years’ imprisonment for their activities. Even after his release, Habeeb continued to be persecuted, and was denied basic civil rights; he was unable to work or practice any public profession after his incarceration.

In the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011, Habeeb co-founded, and was a leading member of Maan (Together), a movement to accompany the Revolution in Syria, and support the peaceful demands of Syrians (2011-2013).

Although Habeeb’s career now centers around translation and literature, it began as one steeped in politics, activism, human rights, and freedom of expression. He names his most defying issue, and a highly sensitive one: how to remain true to himself, to keep his sense of identity intact and ever-improving in a demoralizing and often disheartening political climate. Imprisoned for nearly a decade, Habeeb seems understandably disillusioned with the role of politicians and media in contemporary society. He warns of the frenetic, continuous changes in the world around us, and expresses a legitimate worry that we have to be at constant attention lest we be pushed onto an undesirable path from which we will not recover. For the most part, he comments, “mass media […] is being used to reshape everything all over the world”, leaving us at the mercy of the will of big decision-makers. “They tell us what to eat, drink, wear, and what gifts to offer each other”, and we imbibe these distractions because of our desire to be up-to-date and accepted. Habeeb contends, “they give us all those details to sort out; meanwhile, they are making wars and accumulating wealth from others’ blood”. […] We should not trust politicians to formulate our future”. Rather, he argues, we should participate in the decision-making process, and push and fight for our voices to be heard, to ensure we are creating a world we will enjoy.

Before he began any physical travels, Mohammad Habeeb travelled all over the world through books, and he says that novels were always the best guides. Through his work in translation, he came to realize that, “recreating what others have written is more difficult than writing it yourself”, and to be prepared for criticism rather than compliments. Habeeb stresses the importance of being “faithful to the artistic touch” of the author, as opposed to one’s own, and being skilled enough as a translator to allow the author’s creativity to flow through the translator’s hand.

In August, 2015, Mohammad Habeeb and his family arrived in Stavanger, a city of refuge through the ICORN program, where they currently reside.

Habeeb recollects the time when Syria was his home, and the rest of the world was rooms within that home; “Syria was, and will always be, the closest and warmest room, here, or in any other land”, though often he compares Norway to a “friendly, loving second mother”. Habeeb’s new home and new situation have pushed him forwards, and brought him to reflect in more open and sincere communication with others. He feels encouraged to share his opinions on the reality of the situation in Syria, and particularly the emotional and psychological effects the political climate has on its citizens. Habeeb is now in a position rife with new opportunities, but he aptly notes that “having all the possibilities is just a step”; it is what one does with possibilities, rather than merely possessing them, that counts, and Habeeb plans to take full advantage.

From the time Habeeb learned he was coming to Norway, he asked himself how to make use of his new life, and his instinct told him the answer was to delve into a new project, to have a goal to propel him forward in Stavanger. He decided that his main focus would be learning Norwegian and creating a new bridge, both for himself and in the world of translation, between Norwegian and Arabic cultures. He began ambitiously, working on translations of poetry by Sigbjørn Obstfelder, and reading them in the 150 year Obstfelder celebration during the Kapittel 2016 festival in Stavanger. Habeeb has now moved on to translating his own work, having recently completed a book of short stories, one of which he has translated into Norwegian.

Habeeb’s quiet intelligence, skillful writings and translations, and humble demeanour have quickly earned him recognition and respect in his new community. He was recently invited as an honored guest to the Jubilee celebrations in both Stavanger and Oslo, where he met the King and Queen of Norway, and he was recently featured on the television program Brenner og Bøkene.

Mohammad Habeeb

mohammad-habeeb-1Mohammad Habeeb (b.1961) is a Syrian translator, poet, and writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the English department of Tishreen University in Lattakia, Syria. After more than fifteen years’ experience as a translator and interpreter (working primarily in Arabic and English), Habeeb has translated a number of well-known literary and theoretical works, including the writings of T.S. Eliot, José Saramago, Khaled Hosseini, James Kelman, Carl Gustave Jung, Erich Fromm, Terry Eagleton, and Moris Farhi. Habeeb has worked as a teacher in Syria, teaching writing and translation techniques to junior university students. For the past ten years, he has been working as a freelance translator, and continues to conduct research, translations, and aids in drafting campaigns for Reprieve, a UK-based charity organization. He is a member of the Syrian Writers Union, a society for translators, and he also works as an editor and advisor to a publishing house in Lattakia.

In 1989, Habeeb co-founded the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), and became the co-editor of the organization’s underground magazine, The Voice of Democracy. CDF was primarily established to repeal Syria’s state of emergency from 1963, when the Baath party came into power as the result of a military coup.

In 1991, Habeeb was arrested together with several other activists, and sentenced to 9-10 years’ imprisonment for their activities. Even after his release, Habeeb continued to be persecuted, and was denied basic civil rights; he was unable to work or practice any public profession after his incarceration.

In the wake of the Arab Spring in 2011, Habeeb co-founded, and was a leading member of Maan (Together), a movement to accompany the Revolution in Syria, and support the peaceful demands of Syrians (2011-2013).

Although Habeeb’s career now centers around translation and literature, it began as one steeped in politics, activism, human rights, and freedom of expression. He names his most defying issue, and a highly sensitive one: how to remain true to himself, to keep his sense of identity intact and ever-improving in a demoralizing and often disheartening political climate. Imprisoned for nearly a decade, Habeeb seems understandably disillusioned with the role of politicians and media in contemporary society. He warns of the frenetic, continuous changes in the world around us, and expresses a legitimate worry that we have to be at constant attention lest we be pushed onto an undesirable path from which we will not recover. For the most part, he comments, “mass media […] is being used to reshape everything all over the world”, leaving us at the mercy of the will of big decision-makers. “They tell us what to eat, drink, wear, and what gifts to offer each other”, and we imbibe these distractions because of our desire to be up-to-date and accepted. Habeeb contends, “they give us all those details to sort out; meanwhile, they are making wars and accumulating wealth from others’ blood”. […] We should not trust politicians to formulate our future”. Rather, he argues, we should participate in the decision-making process, and push and fight for our voices to be heard, to ensure we are creating a world we will enjoy.

Before he began any physical travels, Mohammad Habeeb travelled all over the world through books, and he says that novels were always the best guides. Through his work in translation, he came to realize that, “recreating what others have written is more difficult than writing it yourself”, and to be prepared for criticism rather than compliments. Habeeb stresses the importance of being “faithful to the artistic touch” of the author, as opposed to one’s own, and being skilled enough as a translator to allow the author’s creativity to flow through the translator’s hand.

In August, 2015, Mohammad Habeeb and his family arrived in Stavanger, a city of refuge through the ICORN program, where they currently reside.

Habeeb recollects the time when Syria was his home, and the rest of the world was rooms within that home; “Syria was, and will always be, the closest and warmest room, here, or in any other land”, though often he compares Norway to a “friendly, loving second mother”. Habeeb’s new home and new situation have pushed him forwards, and brought him to reflect in more open and sincere communication with others. He feels encouraged to share his opinions on the reality of the situation in Syria, and particularly the emotional and psychological effects the political climate has on its citizens. Habeeb is now in a position rife with new opportunities, but he aptly notes that “having all the possibilities is just a step”; it is what one does with possibilities, rather than merely possessing them, that counts, and Habeeb plans to take full advantage.

From the time Habeeb learned he was coming to Norway, he asked himself how to make use of his new life, and his instinct told him the answer was to delve into a new project, to have a goal to propel him forward in Stavanger. He decided that his main focus would be learning Norwegian and creating a new bridge, both for himself and in the world of translation, between Norwegian and Arabic cultures. He began ambitiously, working on translations of poetry by Sigbjørn Obstfelder, and reading them in the 150 year Obstfelder celebration during the Kapittel 2016 festival in Stavanger. Habeeb has now moved on to translating his own work, having recently completed a book of short stories, one of which he has translated into Norwegian.

Habeeb’s quiet intelligence, skillful writings and translations, and humble demeanour have quickly earned him recognition and respect in his new community. He was recently invited as an honored guest to the Jubilee celebrations in both Stavanger and Oslo, where he met the King and Queen of Norway, and he was recently featured on the television program Brenner og Bøkene.

5. februar: Brennpunkt Syria og Irak

PRESSEMELDING og INVITASJON 

Brennpunkt Syria og Irak

Av verdens mange kriger og konflikter er Syria og Irak blant de mest langvarige og tilsynelatende uløselige.  Norsk PEN setter fokus på disse konfliktene gjennom vitnesbyrd fra den syriske fotojournalisten Ahmad Aboud og den irakiske fribyforfatteren Nawzat Shamdin.

I tillegg får vi et gjenhør med den irakiske fribyforfatteren Basim Mardan´s kraftfulle poesi og fribytegner Fadi Abou Hassan´skrasse tegninger.

Program- og debattleder: Elisabeth Eide

Litteraturhuset i Oslo, Wergelaandsveien 29, Oslo

torsdag 5. februar kl 19.00

Arrangementet er åpent for alle og det er gratis – ta med to venner. 

Ytterligere informasjon: 926 88 023

5. februar: Brennpunkt Syria-Irak

PRESSEMELDING og INVITASJON 

Brennpunkt Syria og Irak

Av verdens mange kriger og konflikter er Syria og Irak blant de mest langvarige og tilsynelatende uløselige.  Norsk PEN setter fokus på disse konfliktene gjennom vitnesbyrd fra den syriske fotojournalisten Ahmad Aboud og den irakiske fribyforfatteren Nawzat Shamdin.

I tillegg får vi et gjenhør med den irakiske fribyforfatteren Basim Mardan´s kraftfulle poesi og fribytegner Fadi Abou Hassan´s krasse tegninger.

Program- og debattleder: Elisabeth Eide

Litteraturhuset i Oslo, Wergelaandsveien 29, Oslo

torsdag 5. februar kl 19.00

Arrangementet er åpent for alle og det er gratis – ta med to venner. 

Ytterligere informasjon: 926 88 023

Syrisk-norsk møte 4. og 5. november UTSATT

UDI stopper møte mellom syriske og norske forfattere

Mandag 4. og tirsdag 5. november var syriske forfattere og intellektuelle invitert til Oslo til seminar, oversetterverksted og poesikveld. UDI gav avslag på visumsøknaden til fire av de inviterte gjestene og møtet blir derfor avlyst. Avslagene er begrunnet med at den politiske, sosiale og økonomiske situasjonen i dagens Syria gjør det sannsynlig at folk vil forsøke å bosette seg for eksempel i Norge, når de ifølge UDI mangler nødvendige bånd til sitt hjemland. Ingen av dem som er invitert til dette todagers seminaret, og som har fått avslag på sine visumsøknader, bor lenger i Syria. Forfattere og intellektuelle er tvunget ut av Syria for lenge siden. Arrangementet er støttet økonomisk av Utenriksdepartementet.

– Norske myndigheter hevder at de vil bidra til en løsning av konflikten i Syria. De er opptatt av at konflikten ikke skal spisses ytterligere og at opposisjonen ikke skal radikaliseres. De ønsker kulturutveksling mellom Norge og Syria, men samtidig gjør de det umulig at slik utveksling kan finne sted, sier leder i Den norske Forfatterforening, Sigmund Løvåsen.

Møtet ville ha vært  en mulighet for et norsk publikum til å få et innblikk i og et mer nyansert bilde av Syrisk kultur, litteratur og situasjonen i landet. En mulighet vi svært sjelden får i disse dager. Norsk Pen og Forfatterforeningen beklager det som har skjedd.

– Dette er pinlig for Norge og svært vanskelig å forklare for de inviterte gjestene som ser på Norge som en forsvarer av fred, ytringsfrihet og toleranse. Den praktiske politikken stemmer ikke overens med det bilde norske politikere forsøker å gi av oss her hjemme i Norge og ute i verden, sier Løvåsen.

De inviterte gjestene er i dag bosatt i De Forente Arabiske Emirater, Tyrkia, Libanon, Frankrike, Danmark og Italia. De fleste har vært tilknyttet Beit al Qasid, poesiens hus i Damaskus, som var kjent for sine poesiaftener fram til opprøret startet

Arrangementet er utsatt med håp om at norske myndigheter vil møte Forfatterforeningen og PEN til konstruktive samtaler hvor vi kan diskutere hvordan vi skal kunne skape denne typen  kulturelle møteplasser slik situasjonen er i dag.

Arrangementet er et samarbeid mellom Den norske Forfatterforening og Norsk PEN

PEN og Journalistlaget etterlyser «forsvunnet» norsk-palestinsk journalist

28nd of May 2013

Norwegian PEN
Wergelandsveien 29,
0167 Oslo,
Norway

The Norwegian Union of Journalists
P.O. Box 8793 St. Olavs plass
0028 Oslo
Norway

Syrian Government
The Embassy of Syrian Arab Republic in Scandinavian Countries
Syrian Embassy
P.o.Box: 4,
182 11 Danderyd
Sweden

Concerns of journalist and author Moheeb Alnawaty

Dear Sirs

Through Interpol we have been informed that Moheeb Alnawaty the 5th of January 2011 was taken into custody by Syrian authorities during a stay in Damascus. Moheeb Alnawaty is a Norwegian journalist and author originally from Gaza, Palestine. Since 2008, he has lived in Norway with his wife and six children. According to the police investigation, he was arrested in Syria by  «security reasons». We – the undersigned – see the act of withholding him without charge or trial for 29 months as a serious violation of human rights and urge You to take immediate action to have him released.

The Norwegian Embassy in Damascus and Amman has made formal requests about Moheeb to the Syrian authorities. Moheeb Alnawaty was granted a Norwegian citizenship In absentia in May 2012. Enclosed You will find more detailed information about him.

Hoping that You will bring this information to the persons in charge,

William Nygaard/s.
President, Norwegian PEN

Thomas Spence/s.
President, Norwegian Union of Journalists

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary general, Norwegian PEN

PEN International’s kongress vedtar viktige resolusjoner

Resolutions from PEN International´s 78th world Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012.

Bahrain

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

On 4 September 2012, the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain confirmed the convictions of thirteen human rights defenders, bloggers and activists serving time in prison and seven others tried in absentia. They include human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and academic, blogger and human rights activist Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, who had been sentenced by a special security court on 22 June 2011 to life imprisonment. They are targeted for calling for political reform and for their reporting on human rights abuses in the country.

Despite the Bahraini’s government much publicised commitments to political reform, little meaningful action has been taken to implement reforms and ensure accountability. Violations are ongoing and peaceful opposition activists remain behind bars. Significant structural impediments to freedom of expression remain in place, and the authorities have denied or severely restricted access for international rights groups, including PEN International.

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World  Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th  to 15th September 2012

Protests the decision by the High Court of Appeal in Bahrain to uphold the harsh sentences against Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace and Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and others solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression;

Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain solely for the peaceful expression their opinions, including Dr Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab;

Demands a full independent investigation into allegations that all three men have been tortured and ill-treated in detention, and to end the culture of impunity by bringing the perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment to justice;

Urges the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to renew its commitments to freedom of expression as articulated in the National Action Charter of Bahrain of 2001 by enacting or amending appropriate legislation to eliminate all restrictions upon the freedom of the press, including criminal penalties.

BELARUS

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

On 4 August 2011, the writer and human rights defender Ales Bialiastki was arrested in Minsk, charged with tax evasion, charges which stemmed from his reported use of personal bank accounts in Lithuania and Poland to receive funding from international donors for Vyasna’s human rights activities in Belarus.  His detention since August 2011 is as a direct result of his legitimate activities in defence of human rights in Belarus.  On 24 November 2011, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment with the confiscation of his property, including the property registered with other persons, on charges of tax evasion.  On January 24, 2012, the cassation appeal against the verdict of the Pershamaiski District Court of Minsk, of Ales Bialiatski, left the sentence in force: 4.5 years imprisonment in a higher security colony and confiscation of properties. The latter disregards the fact that all the taxes and penalties imposed on him had been fully paid by the time of the appeal hearing.

Ales Bialiatski is head of the Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus, Vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and one of the founders of the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile.  Vyasna has campaigned for scores of opposition activists persecuted by the government of President Alexsander Lukashenko. It was stripped of its official registration in 2003, making it extremely difficult under Belarus’s economic laws to raise funds. The condemnation of Ales Bialiatski illustrates how seriously threatened freedom of association and freedom of expression are in Belarus.

Another member of Belarus PEN  Pavel Seviarynets, also an opposition activist and author of several books, was arrested in December 2010 for his involvement in protests was sentenced to three years in a “correctional institution”, a type of open prison where he will remain until the end of 2013.

These and other cases are emblematic of the type of pressure faced by writers and journalists who speak out.

PEN International calls upon Belarusian authorities to:

• Immediately release and drop all charges against human rights defender Ales Bialiatsky and Pavel Seviarynets; to fully rehabilitate him and to ensure unhampered activities of human rights and other civil society organizations
• Release all political prisoners and allow for free, democratic elections
• Stop censoring the internet and allow for a free, democratic exchange of ideas and opinions

 

Cambodia

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Cambodia: On July 15, 2012, journalist, human rights activist, and director of the independent Beehive Radio Station Mam Sonado was arrested and is now standing trial on charges of insurrection. Mr. Mam Sonado is accused of inciting villagers in Kratie province in northeastern Cambodia to protest a government order to seize land in the village and transfer it to a private holding company. There are about 100 families in the village. A teenage girl was shot dead by authorities during that protest. Mr. Mom Sonado has never been to Kratie province and does not know any of the villagers, and was abroad in France when the protest took place. He has, however, been a vocal critic of forced evictions and «land grabs» in Cambodia, and has been jailed twice previously for speaking out against the increasingly common practice of appropriating property in Cambodia. PEN believes his current trial is the latest in a series of actions by the Cambodia government aimed at silencing Mr. Mam Sonado for exercising his universally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Mr. Mam Sonado’s trial comes amid rising concerns over the climate for freedom of expression in Cambodia, where government critics are the target of intimidation and harassment and often accused of being members of opposition parties, and where at least 10 writers, journalists, and activists have been killed since the 1990s and many more have been forced into exile. In addition, several writers have been prosecuted under criminal defamation laws aimed at silencing government critics, and a climate of impunity prevails. In this environment, Mr. Mam Sonado has been a brave defender of the right of all Cambodians to freedom of expression. Beehive Radio is one of just two independent media centers that have programs that allow individuals from all walks of life the raise their voices and express their concerns about their lives and their country. Prosecuting Mr. Mam Sonado is likely to have a chilling on independent media in Cambodia and further shrink the space where Cambodia’s citizens can participate in discussions and debates about policies and issues that affect their lives.

Mr. Mam Sonado, who is 70 years old, has reportedly contracted a serious respiratory infection in prison, and there are serious concerns about his health.

PEN International therefore calls on the government of Cambodia to:

– Drop the current charges against Mr. Mam Sonado and facilitate his immediate and unconditional release
– End the intimidation of critical voices in Cambodia and take affirmative steps to protect the right of writers, journalists, and all Cambodian citizens to full freedom of expression.

 

CHINA

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Welcomes the release of HUANG Jinqiu, TANG Cailong, ZUO Xiaohua,WANG Xiaoming  and GAO Chunlian, either on bail or due to sentence reduction, since the last Congress of PEN International in September 2011.

Also welcomes the progress in amending the Criminal Procedure Law by the National People’s Congress in March 2012, with the insertions of the constitutional principle of “respect and protect human rights” and a sentence of “authorities shall protect the defense right and other procedural rights legally enjoyed by criminal suspects, defendants, and other litigation participants” into its General Provision, and with the corresponding revisions of a large number of the terms and conditions for the rights protection.

Considers the continuous suppression of the right to freedom of expression throughout China, from its capital city of Beijing to the inland provinces of Sichuan, Guizhou and Huibei, to the coastal province of Zhejiang, to the Autonomous Regions of Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia.

Alarmed by the relentless harassment of and attacks against Chinese intellectuals, particularly the arbitrary arrests of online bloggers and journalists, over 40 of whom are currently imprisoned, including the sentencing of CHEN Wei (9 years), CHEN Xi (10 years), LI Tie (10 years) and ZHU Yufu (7 years), making China one of the largest jailers of writers and journalists in the world.

Worried about the growing censorship of the Internet throughout the country, including the popular social network websites Twitter and Facebook.

Disturbed by the continuous use of administrative detention, including the infamous “Re-education Through Labour” (RTL) system, to jail dissident writers for up to 3 years without the due process guaranteed under its own laws.

Further disturbed by the increasing misuse of China’s Criminal Law to arbitrarily charge dissident writers, outspoken journalists and independent publishers with criminal offences to suppress freedom of expression and the press, in particular “endangering national security”, “(inciting) subversion of state power”, “(inciting) split of country” , “illegally holding/leaking state secrets”, and “illegal business practices” or alleged “economic crimes”;

Even further disturbed by the recent amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law which allow police to hold a suspect without informing a relative of either charge or whereabouts as long as they wish, possibly over a year, until there is an open trial.

Shocked by the increasing persecution of Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) members, including the ongoing imprisonment of LIU Xiaobo (11 years), SHI Tao (10 years), YANG Tongyan (12 years), and ZHU Yufu (7 years); the interrogation, harassment, threats, attacks, brief detentions, meeting and travel restrictions, passport rejections, and the work and life interruptions of more than 50 members.

PEN International therefore urges the government of the People’s Republic of China to:

• Stop the harassment and persecution of ICPC members, and lift all restrictions on their freedom to exit and enter mainland China, particularly to attend PEN International conferences and to return home;
• Cease its efforts to censor cyberspace and to immediately release all Internet writers jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions;
• Release all those in the autonomous regions of Tibet, Xinjiang Uyghur and Inner Mongolia who have been detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression,
• Release all imprisoned writers and journalists in China
• Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was signed by the People’s Republic of China in October 1998;
• Engage in a complete and meaningful reform of the Chinese legal system in accordance with international standards and its own Constitution to guarantee fair trials, the full rights of defence and appeal, the legal practices of attorneys, and a prison system that ensures the health and safety of inmates; particularly to cease the practice of using the charge of “subversion” against writers and of “holding/leaking state secrets” against journalists; and to abandon the infamous RTL system.

CUBA

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Despite the recent release from prison of political prisoners, the government of Cuba continues to arrest, harass and physically attack writers, journalists, bloggers and independent librarians, as well as opponents peacefully struggling for human rights, such as the Ladies in White. This new wave of repression includes the kidnapping of activists, keeping them incommunicado in political police buildings, and only setting them free after alleged torture and under threat of a judicial writ indicating that they will be imprisoned if they continue those activities.

Furthermore, the government of Cuba keeps in force Law 88 from 1999, setting prison terms of more than 20 years for dissidents who claim peacefully their right to freedom of expression. Also, it keeps in force the Law of Security of Information, limiting internet information access to independent journalists.

The Cuban government, contravening Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights denies travel permits to writers and journalists to enable them to receive international awards, as is the case of blogger Yoani Sánchez, who obtained the María Moors Cabot Award in 2009.

These attacks on free expression in Cuba have been condemned by several non-governmental rights and press organisations, including the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which reported 3,645 short-term detentions in the first half of 2012, the Inter-American Society for the Press, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT).
:
PEN International therefore urges the government of Cuba to:

• Abstain from the arrest, physical attack and harassment of writers, journalists, bloggers and independent librarians for their practice of their right to freedom of expression;
• Allow the use of means of social communications such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other possible future technological means;
• Free the remaining political prisoners still serving terms in Cuba;
• Abolish Law 88 of 1999 and the Law of Security;
• Comply with Articles 12 and 19 of the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, signed by Cuba on February 2008.

 

ERITREA

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Seoul, South Korea, 9 September to 15 September 2012

ERITREA: September 23, 2012 the journalist, playwright and writer Dawit Isaak has been in Eritrean prison for eleven years. Despite many efforts to raise his case at the international level, Dawit remains a long term prisoner of conscience.

Eleven years ago, Mr. Isaak was detained with a large number of other journalists, writers and opposition politicians after his newspaper published a letter which criticized President Isaias Afewerki. Despite serious concerns for their health and well-being, Isaak and his colleagues have reportedly been held without charge or trial in extremely harsh conditions ever since. At least four of the journalists arrested with Isaak are believed to have died during their detention and, according to news reports in 2012, only 15 out of the original 35 political prisoners held at Eira Eiro prison camp, where Isaak is allegedly detained, remain alive. Since 2005 there has been no certain confirmation of Mr. Isaak being alive, and 2011 it was even reported that Mr. Isaak had died. This rumour has neither been denied or confirmed by the authorities, and PEN International refuses to believe it’s true. Three more were confirmed dead last week.

Dawit Isaak was born in Eritrea in 1964. He immigrated to Sweden as a refugee from Eritrea’s War of Independence in 1987 and became a Swedish citizen five years later. When Eritrea gained independence in 1993, Isaak returned to his native country and became a part-owner of Setit, the country’s first independent newspaper.

PEN International is deeply concerned by the reported deaths of Dawit Isaak’s colleagues, and by a longstanding lack of medical treatment at the prisons where he has been held.

PEN International calls on the government of Eritrea:

• To honour its obligations under international law by granting the International Committee of the Red Cross, or some other reputable and independent organization, access to Mr. Isaak and those detained with him;
• To confirm and prove that Mr. Isaak is still alive;
• To provide independent assessments of their health and any medical treatment they require;
• To grant the immediate and unconditional release of Dawit Isaak and the at least 15 other Eritreans who have also been imprisoned for their writings since 2001.

Ethiopia

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September, 2012

ETHIOPIA: On June 27, 2012, the Ethiopian high court convicted Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega on charges of “conspiracy to commit terrorist acts” for the peaceful and lawful practice of his profession. On July 13, 2012, Eskinder was sentenced to 18 years in prisonLike many of his colleagues in the independent media in Ethiopia, Eskinder Nega has been the target of constant harassment since he began his career in 1993. In 2005 he and his journalist wife Serkalem Fasil were imprisoned for 17 months on treason charges for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections. When he was released he was banned from journalism. He refused to be silenced, publishing reports and essays on online media—most notably, reports critical of the Ethiopian government’s human rights record and its use of an overly-broad anti-terrorism law to prosecute journalists.  Now Eskinder stands as the latest victim of this troubling practice.

At least 5 journalists have been detained and 11 tried and convicted under the vaguely-worded Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009, which includes provisions the government has increasingly used to jail peaceful opponents and critics. Independent newspapers are consistently shut down, and social media is monitored and often banned. As official hostility to a free press and peaceful dissent has grown in Ethiopia, at least 150 of Eskinder Nega’s colleagues in the independent media have been forced into exile.

PEN International therefore calls on the Ethiopian authorities to:

• Reverse Eskinder Nega’s conviction and immediately release all journalists who have been convicted under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression
• Amend the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 to ensure that its provision protect the right of Ethiopia’s citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and full political participation
• End the intimidation and harassment of the independent media that has forced scores of Ethiopian journalists into exile.

 

Iran

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

Preamble: For decades there has been a widespread crackdown on peaceful political dissent across many aspects of civil society in Iran. Those targeted include writers and journalists, academics, women’s rights activists and human rights defenders. Separatist struggle places writers and journalists particularly at risk in Iran’s ethnic regions, and PEN International is alarmed at the number of Kurdish, Azeri and Arab journalists targeted for their critical reporting, peaceful activism and writings in support of their cultural and political rights. At least thirty writers are currently detained in Iran, many serving lengthy sentences, including Muhemed Sadigh Kaboudvand, Adnan Hassanpour, Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar, Nasrin Soutadeh and Shiva Ahari. Detainees are commonly held in poor conditions, without access to family, medical care and legal representation, and there are widespread reports of the use of torture. Trials commonly fall short of international standards of fairness.

The General Assembly of PEN International is:

Alarmed by the extensive violations of human rights in Iran, and the continued persecution facing writers and journalists who are particularly targeted by the Iranian regime for practicing their rights to free expression.

Concerned about the continuous policy of harassment of the Kurdish and Baluchi identity, language and culture depriving these groups from publishing, studying or developing their language.
PEN International calls upon the Iranian regime to:

• stop ill treatment and torture in Iranian prisons;
• stop the particular targeting of national groups such as the Kurds, Azeris, Arabs, Baluchi and Turkmen, and allowing them full practice of their cultural, linguistic and political rights;
• calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Muhemed Sadigh Kaboudvand, Adnan Hassanpour, Abdolvahed “Hiva” Botimar, Nasrin Soutadeh, Shiva Ahari, and all writers and journalists who have been arrested in Iran in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.

 

MEXICO

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012

MEXICO: Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world in which to be a writer. Since 2006, at least 44 print journalists, writers and bloggers have been murdered in connection with their work; at least 9 others have disappeared. Of these attacks, very few have been thoroughly investigated. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, fewer than 10% of attacks against journalists and writers result in convictions. There is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that state actors are often involved in attacks on journalists. In March 2012 the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression publicly recognized that many of the threats to journalists’ right to free expression in Mexico came from the state authorities themselves.  PEN is appalled by the continuing litany of killings and threats and calls on the Mexican authorities to do all in their power to bring this to an end.

In January 2012, an international delegation of PEN leaders from the Americas, Europe and Asia went to Mexico in order to raise international awareness of the violence suffered there by writers and journalists. They underlined that Mexico’s commitment to protecting freedom of expression will only be measured by a reduction in attacks on journalists and writers, and on the prosecution and conviction of those who commit these crimes.

On 6 June 2012, Mexico finally approved an amendment to article 73 of the Mexican constitution that makes attacks on journalists a federal offence. This change in law will provide investigators with greater resources with which to pursue their work, and protect cases from the influence of corruption at local state level.

On 22 June 2012, President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, signed into law a further amendment to article 73 that will oblige both federal and state authorities to protect the rights of journalists and human rights defenders.

PEN International calls on the Mexican authorities to:

• Swiftly approve the secondary legislation required for the effective implementation of the recent constitutional amendments, thereby ensuring that the new laws classifying attacks on journalists as federal crimes and affording journalists better protection, are put into practice on the ground.
• Demonstrate their commitment to freedom of expression by pursuing and prosecuting those responsible for attacks on journalists and writers.
• Acknowledge the role of state actors in violence against journalists and take concrete measures to address it;
• Tackle the corruption that is endemic at state level, and thereby remove a key cause of impunity in Mexico.

Further to the above, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International calls on the United States of America, Canada and the European Union to:

• Place these attacks on Mexican writers and journalists on the foreign policy agenda by insisting that the above recommendations be implemented, and by conditioning future counternarcotics aid on the Mexican authorities taking genuine and effective action to redress serious human rights violations against journalists.
• Address their own countries’ role in drug consumption and in international

In session Resolution on Russia

Preamble
Recent months have seen a steep decline in the state of freedom of expression and the ability of society to act freely in Russia. The two year sentences served against Maria Alyokhiona, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samusevich, members of the band, Pussy Riot, supposedly on “hooliganism” charges, are clearly a means through which to intimidate not only critics of President Putin, but also of the Orthodox church. The weight of the sentences for what in other countries, and indeed in earlier similar cases of civil disobedience tried by Russian courts, are seen as minor offences, makes this abundantly clear.

Earlier this year, the city of St Petersburg district a law banning “homosexual propaganda”, a law that could be used to penalise writings, plays, performances and other creative works. This brings the number of cities having such laws to four, and fears that they will spread to other cities in Russia. Commentators have pointed out that these laws have been passed on the initiative of the Orthodox Church, another indication of its growing influence  on the state.

Last month criminal libel was re-introduced only a year after it had been decriminalized only a year ago, part of a number of laws forced at great speed through parliament in July with acute negative effect on freedom of expression and association, leading to alarm at the growing authoritarianism.

Among the laws passed in July is the law “Regulating Activities of Non-commercial Organizations, which Carry Out Functions of Foreign Agents” that will demand that any organisation that is funded, or considering getting funding from abroad, to register with the Ministry of Justice as “carrying out functions of a foreign agent”. This only applies if the organisation is involved in political advocacy. This places enormous restraint on organisations in Russia, among them Russian PEN, under legislation using language resonant of the Cold War.

Alongside this, there has been no justice in most of the 53 killings of writers and journalists since 1992 (figs: Committee to Protect Journalists). Less than 10% of these killings have seen justice. Among them are journalist Anna Politkovskaya murdered in 2006, and her friend, human rights defender and reporter, Natalia Estemirova, killed in 2009. This not only grants a mantle of impunity for those who kill to silence, but does not bode well in this current climate where writers, journalists and artists who speak out are being identified by the state as traitors to the state and church, marking them as targets for gunmen.

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Geongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September, 2012

PEN International views with deep foreboding the growing authoritarianism in Russia. It calls on the Russian authorities to:
• Put an end to the arrest and sentencing of writers, journalists and artists who use words, performance and imagery to express their views on the society and politics in which they live;
• Review state and federal legislation that criminalises freedom of expression including through literature, the media and creative arts;
• To make it undeniably clear that the Russian government will not tolerate, let alone endorse, any threats of violence or actual attacks against its critics
• Illustrate its commitment to protect all its citizens against violence by speeding up the investigations into killings in recent years, and facilitating trial processes against those who kill writers, including those who orchestrate such murders, thus showing that the Russian state is able to provide justice and is not in thrall to criminals who are behind these atrocities;
Take note of the deep levels of concern of the impact that the  law on “foreign agents” will have on the capacity for Russia to have a well functioning, independent, civil society that is truly able to serve the Russian people, and to order a review of the legislation.

Syria

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 78th World Congress in Gyeongju, Korea, 9th to 15th September 2012..

Preamble

Repression of human rights, displacement of minorities and ethnic discrimination is not news in Syria, where writers, human rights defenders and political dissidents have been harassed and persecuted for years – throughout its decades of dictatorship freedom of speech has been severely restricted for writers and media people in Syria across ethnic, religious and linguistic barriers.

During the popular calls for democratic change 2011-2012, however, the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad has increased its repression, trying to stop non-violent demonstrations with barbarous force.

Contrary to its international obligations and commitments to UN human rights conventions, the Syrian dictatorship has made a horrendous effort to prevent writers and journalists, local as well international, from covering the crisis. Media people have been arrested without charge, many tortured, several killed.

Although promising the former special representative of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, that political prisoners would be released and that media would have free access to all parts of Syria, the Assad dictatorship continuously has prevented media people from entering the country and/or cities or provinces of crisis.

PEN International is well aware that non-governmental armed groups have become part of the Syrian crisis. It is however the responsibility of the Syrian government to ensure the safety of its people as well as human rights, including not the least freedom of speech – rather than answering political dissent with violent repression and meeting calls for freedom of speech with heavy-handed censorship.

PEN centres representing more than 20.000 writers, bloggers, journalists, editors and publishers from all over the world, convening at the 78th PEN International congress in Gyeongju, Korea, call on the government of Syria and all parties of the Syrian conflict to respect the principle of freedom of speech as well as other principles of human rights.

The government of Syria must immediately release and drop all charges against imprisoned writers and human rights defenders and ensure unhampered freedom of speech and unlimited freedom to human rights and other civil society organizations;

The government must ensure and protect free access to all parts of Syria to all representatives of media;

And the Syrian government must stop censoring the internet and allow for a free, democratic exchange of ideas and opinions.

We also call on all parties to the conflict, including the Syrian National Council, to ensure the cultural, political and linguistic rights of all the ethnic groups in Syria.

 

The Turkey Manifesto

PEN International calls for an overhaul of laws stifling Turkey’s writers and journalists

Turkey has an extraordinarily high number of writers and journalists in prison with many more on release pending trial. Most are held because of their alleged affiliation to or support of organisations that advocate violence. However, PEN is worried that this situation has emerged as a result of the amenability of Turkish courts to broad interpretations of anti-terror laws, empowering overzealous state prosecutors to pursue cases where no material links to terrorism exist.

As of  September 2012, scores of journalists were reported imprisoned in Turkey.  Such figures are difficult to confirm; the complexity and obfuscation surrounding these cases makes them difficult to monitor, while releases being made under the Third Judicial Reform Package passed in July are still ongoing.

The Turkish legal system imposes extremely long periods of pre-trial detention on suspects. We have on our records people who have still not been convicted after four years in prison. These conditions create an atmosphere of intimidation for writers and journalists, who risk lengthy spells in prison when they publish controversial but legitimate comment even if they’re never convicted.

Even in cases without pre-trial detention writers, journalists and publishers in Turkey face lengthy trials that may last for years. More often than not, these less serious cases end with acquittals or minor fines, indicating that the reasons for prosecution are not founded under Turkish law. It is hard not to conclude that those who bring these cases have little regard for the outcome, and in fact do so to harass and intimidate the authors and send warnings to others. The draining, debilitating effect on the defendants in these cases can be immense.

In addition to the Anti-Terror Law, freedom of expression is suppressed under numerous other laws including  obscenity, praising offences or offenders, inciting the population to (usually religious) hatred and insulting Turkishness.  Legitimate political comment regarding public officials is also challenged through defamation cases.

THE SITUATION IS UNTENABLE AND REQUIRES IMMEDIATE RESPONSE. THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT MUST:

1. Order the review of all cases of imprisoned writers, journalists and publishers held and on trial under the Anti-Terror Law to ensure that none are being penalized for the legitimate practice of their rights  to peaceful freedom of expression and association.

2. Make much needed changes to the country’s draconian Anti-Terror Law, which allows for the imprisonment and pre-trial detention of writers and journalists with no material links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts.

3. Revise other articles of the Turkish Penal Code that have been used to stifle legitimate political comment or to suppress creative  works.

4. Improve on the positive reforms made as part of the Third Judicial Reform Package by going further to eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention and onerously lengthy trial times, and introduce a stringent means of vetting cases before trial so that weak indictments can’t be used to imprison, harass or intimidate writers and journalists.

 

Syrisk opposisjon:

Drep Adonis!

BEIRUT: Lebanese and Syrian intellectuals are issuing online condemnations in the wake of a call from elements of the Syrian opposition that Syrian poet and literary critic Adonis be killed.

Issued on one of the Syrian opposition’s Facebook pages, the call argued that the literary icon deserved to die on three counts. First, he is Alawite. Second he is also opposed to the Muslim religion. Third, he criticizes the opposition and rejects foreign military intervention in Syria.

The authors of the Facebook page adorned their call with a photo of Adonis, designed to resemble a wanted poster. It read: “Wanted for Justice on the charge of al-Shabih al-Taifi [sectarian thuggery].” The image appeared to be splattered with blood.

The Facebook statement identified Adonis as Ali Ahmad Said Esber, an Alawite born in 1930 in the village of Qassabin. He revolted against his name and the name of his father, the notice said, because in his view it belongs to Arab Islamic tradition, which contradicts modernity.

The Facebook page goes on to imply that Adonis – arguably the most influential living figure in Arabic poetry – took the name of a Phoenician demigod because he considers the Arabic language to be in decline.

A report in Thursday’s edition of Al-Safir newspaper suggested that the condemnations of the Facebook campaign arising from the Syrian and Lebanese intellectual circles have been uneven.

Among those speaking out has been Syrian film director Eva Dawood.

“The prophet of every age is always crucified at the hands of ignorance and backwardness,” Dawood wrote (in Arabic) on her Facebook page. “History has never witnessed a philosopher killing a man of God, but to this day intellectuals are being threatened and killed by people who have become religious. History will mention [Adonis’] name as an important figure in Syria. Where and how will you be remembered?”

“Perhaps Adonis is crying right now and saying, ‘F**k how right I was!’” Syrian film director Joud Said commented on his Facebook page.

Poet Adel Mahmoud observed that when a wild boar killed the mythical Adonis, his blood formed red roses, then wondered, “Who is the civil boar who would kill the poet Adonis?”

The Syrian opposition statement went on the say that though he claims to be secular, Adonis is having great difficulty shaking off his sectarianism, that he “is still looking deep inside for excuses to justify his inability to see the human in what is taking place [in the Syrian uprising]. There is no good in him or hope, for Adonis does not condemn the entry of Iranian and Russian funding and arms for [Syrian President] Bashar Assad, but instead talks about the opposition seeking help from the West.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Books/2012/May-18/173770-intellectuals-blast-syrian-opposition-calls-for-adonis-death.ashx#ixzz1wFfRvBrH
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Verdens Bokdag 23.04.:

Les en tekst til støtte for Syria

Appeal for a global reading against the Assad regime and for freedom and democracy in Syria

 The international literature festival berlin (ilb) calls upon intellectuals, writers, artists, cultural institutions, schools, universities, radio and TV stations, to participate in a global reading on 23 April 2012, the World Book Day. Excerpts from the diary of the Syrian author Samar Yazbek will be read – also in front of Syrian embassies. Yazbek has documented in her diary the events in Syria since the beginning of the rebellion last year. She is also the author of the attached appeal. The texts from her diary will be made available to be read in Arabic, English, French and German.

The reading and a commemorative minute of silence will be dedicated to the victims of the revolt. They are meant as a manifestation of our solidarity with the opponents of the Assad regime, and an expression of our hope for a free, democratic and secular country.

In view of the peaceful demonstrations early last year, the Syrian government responded with the militarization of cities, with terror and murder. This, in turn, triggered rebellion in the communities and caused the divide in society and in the army. Soldiers who refused to obey and to kill civilians had to desert. They founded the Free Army of Syria, whose goal is the protection and the defence of the citizens of the country.

Security forces have been using heavy artillery for months to kill and destroy. Cities are under siege and are being pillaged; women are being raped, their dead bodies thrown into the night. Young people are being sent to jail, where they are tortured and murdered. According to human rights activists, about 10,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the protests. While Syria’s civilization and the unique history of the country are about to die, the world limits its commitment to the mere observation of Assad’s military undertakings. The events hosted at the World Book Day are meant to overcome the silence by demanding Assad’s resignation and issuing a plea for freedom and democracy in a secular state of Syria.

Please let us know, if you want to join us with a reading on 23 April 2012 an write to: worldwidereading@literaturfestival.com

Appeal to the intellectuals, writers and artists of the world

Today, while we are writing these lines, Syrian children are being silenced, Syrian women are being raped, and their dead bodies are thrown into the night. Cities are under siege and being pillaged, while young people are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The Syrian regime has its security services and the army use heavy artillery for major extermination strikes against human beings, their homes, and nature.

The revolt of the great citizens of Syria started a year ago. The protesters carried olive twigs and shouted peaceful slogans. The government answered with murder, terror and with the occupation of cities. This, in turn, encouraged the communities and citizens in the country, who started a rebellion, and it produced a divide between society and the army, and moved soldiers to desert, this being the only choice when they refused to obey commands to kill civilians. These soldiers formed the Syrian Free Army, in order to protect the peaceful civilians of Syria.

There are no members of Al Qaida, no Salafists, nor armed gangs in Syria. The only armed gang committing murder, spreading terror and sectarianism in the country, is Bashar al-Assad’s gang, his family and his clique.
The first banner of universal civilization was raised in Syria, the nation that many consider “the second home of all civilized men and women in the world.” However, Syria, the land of culture and history, the melting pot of urbanism and philosophy, is dying today, before the very eyes of the world, which merely watches the dictator who is about to extinguish the Syrian civilization and its people.
The Syrian people stand alone, and their blood flows like a river. Yet, they refuse to give up their demands of freedom, dignity, and justice. There is still hope that the rule of law can be established. Dear friends, when will you speak up in view of this barbarism, in view of these crimes? When

will you cease to be mere observers of the tragedy that our people suffer today? This is our cry to the world: We implore you! Without you the Apartheid regime in South Africa

would not have been abolished. Please exert pressure and call upon your governments, so that they act quickly in order to save our people and our beautiful country, where the arts, creativity, and life are at stake today!
Dear friends, writers, artists, and intellectuals of the world: Stand up, and save the Syrian people from death. Please join the most courageous, the noblest and the most difficult revolution, the least possible revolution in modern history.
Because to join our revolution means to share the values of freedom, truth, justice and civilization.
Samar Yazbek

World Book Day April 23.: Read a text for Syria

Appeal for a global reading against the Assad regime and for freedom and democracy in Syria 

The international literature festival berlin (ilb) calls upon intellectuals, writers, artists, cultural institutions, schools, universities, radio and TV stations, to participate in a global reading on 23 April 2012, the World Book Day. Excerpts from the diary of the Syrian author Samar Yazbek will be read – also in front of Syrian embassies. Yazbek has documented in her diary the events in Syria since the beginning of the rebellion last year. She is also the author of the attached appeal. The texts from her diary will be made available to be read in Arabic, English, French and German.

The reading and a commemorative minute of silence will be dedicated to the victims of the revolt. They are meant as a manifestation of our solidarity with the opponents of the Assad regime, and an expression of our hope for a free, democratic and secular country.

In view of the peaceful demonstrations early last year, the Syrian government responded with the militarization of cities, with terror and murder. This, in turn, triggered rebellion in the communities and caused the divide in society and in the army. Soldiers who refused to obey and to kill civilians had to desert. They founded the Free Army of Syria, whose goal is the protection and the defence of the citizens of the country.

Security forces have been using heavy artillery for months to kill and destroy. Cities are under siege and are being pillaged; women are being raped, their dead bodies thrown into the night. Young people are being sent to jail, where they are tortured and murdered. According to human rights activists, about 10,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the protests. While Syria’s civilization and the unique history of the country are about to die, the world limits its commitment to the mere observation of Assad’s military undertakings. The events hosted at the World Book Day are meant to overcome the silence by demanding Assad’s resignation and issuing a plea for freedom and democracy in a secular state of Syria.

Please let us know, if you want to join us with a reading on 23 April 2012 an write to: worldwidereading@literaturfestival.com

Appeal to the intellectuals, writers and artists of the world

Today, while we are writing these lines, Syrian children are being silenced, Syrian women are being raped, and their dead bodies are thrown into the night. Cities are under siege and being pillaged, while young people are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The Syrian regime has its security services and the army use heavy artillery for major extermination strikes against human beings, their homes, and nature.
The revolt of the great citizens of Syria started a year ago. The protesters carried olive twigs and shouted peaceful slogans. The government answered with murder, terror and with the occupation of cities. This, in turn, encouraged the communities and citizens in the country, who started a rebellion, and it produced a divide between society and the army, and moved soldiers to desert, this being the only choice when they refused to obey commands to kill civilians. These soldiers formed the Syrian Free Army, in order to protect the peaceful civilians of Syria.
There are no members of Al Qaida, no Salafists, nor armed gangs in Syria. The only armed gang committing murder, spreading terror and sectarianism in the country, is Bashar al-Assad’s gang, his family and his clique.
The first banner of universal civilization was raised in Syria, the nation that many consider “the second home of all civilized men and women in the world.” However, Syria, the land of culture and history, the melting pot of urbanism and philosophy, is dying today, before the very eyes of the world, which merely watches the dictator who is about to extinguish the Syrian civilization and its people.
The Syrian people stand alone, and their blood flows like a river. Yet, they refuse to give up their demands of freedom, dignity, and justice. There is still hope that the rule of law can be established. Dear friends, when will you speak up in view of this barbarism, in view of these crimes? When

will you cease to be mere observers of the tragedy that our people suffer today? This is our cry to the world: We implore you! Without you the Apartheid regime in South Africa

would not have been abolished. Please exert pressure and call upon your governments, so that they act quickly in order to save our people and our beautiful country, where the arts, creativity, and life are at stake today!
Dear friends, writers, artists, and intellectuals of the world: Stand up, and save the Syrian people from death. Please join the most courageous, the noblest and the most difficult revolution, the least possible revolution in modern history.
Because to join our revolution means to share the values of freedom, truth, justice and civilization.
Samar Yazbek