Kurdish PEN Writers Meet, Watched By Police

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By Berivan Dosky, Co-Chair, Kurdish PEN:

This is to inform you that on 20-21 May 2016 under difficult circumstances we held our 9th Congress in Amed/Diyarbakir as there was a heavy police presence and tense atmosphere.

The Congress coincided with a few events:

1. A book fair in Amed 18th – 21st May where there was a police raid on 19 May.
2. The same day as we were having our Congress, immunity was lifted from Kurdish MPs leaving them liable to prosecution and detention while disregarding the votes of nearly 8 million people who supported them.
3. The ban was finally lifted on the besieged areas weeks after the curfew was lifted to reveal the heartbreaking reality of horrendous crimes committed by Turkish forces. (Buildings were destroyed, bloodstains were on the walls and floor and stories are hidden as no one was allowed to enter….no one knows the real casualties apart from those forces).

There was also a heavy police presence outside our hotels, at the congress venue, and at the book fair as well as everywhere else.

The police demanded the names of those who read the outcome of the Congress (the final statement). The police also interfered while I was giving an interview to Azadiya Welat Newspaper regarding the congress and the PEN mission in general.

Nevertheless we held our Congress, calling for the implementation of articles of Bled Manifesto, adopted by the Assembly of Delegates at the 79th PEN International Congress in Reykjavik (September 2013) concerning the universal right to peace. We have also used the famous saying of the great Kurdish poet Ahmed e Xani, who said “If only we had consensus” to be the motto for the Congress, which ended late evening of the 20th and continued the next day with the press conference and meeting to identify positions and responsibilities.

Apart from the usual business of any Congress and the outcome of elections of Board members, the Congress called for and emphasised the following:

1. The right to live in peace.
2. The right to enjoy free expression and to live in one’s identity without harassment and persecution.
3. The necessity to have the voice of Kurdish writers and intellectuals loud and clear when holding the National Congress (to be) and not just the political parties’ voices.
4. The fundamental right to mother tongue education.

The Congress also adopted the following:

1. Changed a couple of articles in the Kurdish PEN’s mission statement, bringing it closer to the one of PEN International with a few articles still specific to Kurdish PEN.
2. Adopted the system of Co-Chair (one man/one woman) that has become the norm, style and necessity of Kurdish society.
3. In order to keep the expertise and contribution of experienced previous presidents, it was decided that they will become honorary presidents to commit some of their time to PEN.
4. Gave power to the Board to change the logo of Kurdish PEN as and when they have an alternative.

The newly-elected committee accepted their responsibility and expressed their will and determination to be active and do their best to fulfil members’ expectations within the wider PEN mission and context.

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