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Declaration in support of the pro-European option of the Ukrainian people

The PEN centers from Central-East Europe and the Balkan countries – members of the global writers’ association PEN INTERNATIONAL – express their solidarity with the Ukrainian people who are demonstrating these days in Kiev and in other cities in favor of the pro-European integration of their country. Among those demonstrating in the ”Euro wasteland” in Kiev are many writers, journalists, and creative people whose values of liberty and democracy we share. The place of Ukraine is undoubtedly in the European family, where it already belongs by virtue of its culture and age-old traditions. On November 29, 2013, at the summit of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius, the Republic of Moldavia and Georgia signed a covenant of association and free trade with the European Union. The Ukraine, which had previously initiated these negotiations, should have signed its own agreement of association with the EU at the same time. Unfortunately, it appears that the chances of a European integration of Ukraine have been hijacked by the interests of its leaders, as well as by pressures from Russia, which appears is ready to use any means, be they political, economic or military sanctions, in order to maintain the ex-Soviet republics in her sphere of influence. The PEN centers from Central-East Europe and the Balkan countries are supporting the peaceful protest of the people gathered on the “Euro waste land” in Kiev as well as the right of Ukrainians to choose freely and democratically their way of development. The victory of the pro-European option in Ukraine will also facilitate the process of integration into the European Union of other countries of the Eastern Partnership – the republics of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus and Azerbaijan – and will accelerate the reforms and the modernization of these societies as they seek to be rid of the remnants of their Soviet past. Opportunities thus will be created for solving the separatist conflicts inherited from the Soviet period and continued by the Russian Federation in places such as Abkhazia and South Osetia in Georgia, Transnistria in the Republic of Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The PEN centers from Central-East Europe and the Balkan countries condemn the use of force by the police and the security forces in Kiev against peaceful protesting people, among whom are Ukrainian and foreign journalists. We also condemn the campaign of persecution in schools and universities against young people who are participating in the protests. We are against any form of violence. A real dialogue is needed between protesters and authorities that will allow the best political solutions for placing Ukraine on the way to European integration. We call upon the governments of the EU countries and of the candidate states to manifest their support for the European aspirations of Ukraine. We call upon the political parties, the civil society, the media organizations and the unions of artists from the countries that are members of the Eastern Partnership, but we also call upon the civil society and the independent press of the Russian Federation to join the Ukrainian people in its wish to belong again to the family of free and democratic nations – a situation which concerns also other people from the ex-Soviet Union that are wishing to break free from the totalitarian past. We call upon the writers and the PEN centers from all over the world to support the aspirations of freedom and Europeanism of our fellow writers  in Ukraine.   P.E.N. Moldova (Vitalie Ciobanu president) P.E.N. Romania (Magda Carneci president) P.E.N. Montenegro (Mladen Lompar president) P.E.N. Slovenia (Marjan Strojan, President)

A public call to the relevant authorities

The poets, writers and journalists Rodney Sieh (Liberia), Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang (Tibet), Dina Meza (Honduras), Fazil Say (Turkey), Zahra Rahnavard (Iran), the poet Aron Atabek (Kazakhstan) and many others have in the 21st century been imprisoned, tortured or even killed simply because they publicly expressed their beliefs and their views of the political conditions in the country of which they were/are citizens.In striving for the consistent respect of one of the fundamental human rights, the freedom to express one’s opinions and convictions, which should not be denied to a single person on the planet and without respect for which there is no future for culture and civilisation, only a path back to slavery, on behalf of the Slovene PEN Centre and the Writers for Peace PEN International Committee we call upon the authorities of the states in which this is happening to forthwith release the imprisoned poets and writers and all those others whose freedom has been taken away simply because they publicly declared their opinions or political stance. We also call upon the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as all the governments of the democratic states which do respect the aforementioned fundamental freedom, to use in their direct contacts with the governments of the states in which infringements of this freedom are taking place and in the UN bodies, every opportunity to do all that is in their power to compel these states to consistently respect this right, even if this means upsetting those in power. Tone Peršak, President of the WfPC of PEN International   Marjan Strojan, President of the Slovene PEN   Read more ...

John Ralston Saul: Opening speech at the 78th PEN International Congress

This is a remarkable city.  I have been coming to Gyeongju for fifteen years.  It is a city not only of history but of ideas; a city built on the idea of a humanist civilization, both Buddhist and Confucian.  I think often, wherever I am in the world, of The Divine Bell of the Great King Seong Deok from the 8th Century, which sits a short distance from here.  It is covered in script: the philosophy of the day.  “The Absolute Truth”, it says, “embraces all of creation, here and beyond.  We cannot see its real form, nor can we trace the path to its origin”.  Here is a profoundly anti-ideological idea; an idea of doubt and of creativity, which writers can embrace today.  And then this line: “The people [of the Silla Kingdom] admired literature and art over gold and jade”. Here is an idea which would mystify many of those who control policy around the world today – the belief that the imagination needs to trump mere self interest.PEN is stronger in its 91st year than is has ever been. Why?  Because  we function on the fundamental principle of the Divine Bell.  Creativity, imagination, language may be forbidden, battered, turned into propaganda in the short term.  But creativity, the imagination, prevail.

Ljubljana welcomes a new ICORN writer!

Ali Amar is a Moroccan writer and journalist. In 1997 he co-founded the Casablanca weekly ‘Le Journal hebdomadaire’ which he edited until its closure in January 2010. It was the first independent journal banned by the Moroccan regime.  Ali Amar  holds a degree in economics and a Master in International Journalism of the City University London, UK. He has been frequently persecuted in his home country because of his "engaged pen" and his thorough inquiries about the Moroccan monarchic system.     He is author of a best-seller "Mohammed VI, le grand malentendu" (Mohammed VI, the big misunderstanding), published in France in 2009 by Calmann-Lévy. The book was censored in Morocco. His book reveals the reality of the first ten years of the reign of the Moroccan king. His second book "Paris-Marrakech : argent, pouvoir et réseaux" will be published end of January 2012 again at Calmann-Lévy editors. It decrypts the incestuous ties between Moroccan and French elites against the arab revolutions. Ali Amar currently lives in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia that recently joined the ICORN network of cities of refuge for persecuted writers. He writes for the information site Slate. Ali, welcome!