Electing our new PEN International President

Dear PEN Members,

For the first time since 1921, we will have a woman colleague as our International President. All three candidates are wonderful: Jennifer Clement, Vida Ognjenovic and Zeynep Oral.In view of the equality of all three candidates, the international situation is an important factor in this election. Amidst growing chaotic oppression and more bloodshed each day, I’d like to share my view as a former member of PEN International Board.

The equality of men and women has been on the agenda of every civilized movement. Unfortunately, it is menaced by sectarian religious organizations and governments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Writers, poets, playwrights, critics, cartoonists, bloggers, journalists, editors, translators, publishers, performers, and peaceful demonstrators are under attack in many ways. There are also wars, armed conflicts, tragedies including those of beheaded children, sexual slavery, torture and terrified refugees. Linguistic and LGBTI rights are still far from being recognised in so many places.

At this critical point in history, if a woman writer from an area where such conflicts are severe be elected as our International President, the influence of PEN will be greater everywhere. Struggling in Turkey as a writer, a peace activist and conflict resolver but also having close connections in every continent, Zeynep Oral would be an efficient PEN International President in our struggle for freedom of expression, democratization and peace. She is experienced as the former International Vice President of Theatre Critics (AICT) during many years. Her Freedom of Press- Dialogue Award (2011) from the International Press Institute (IPI) testifies to her struggle for half a century, which includes the revival of the PEN Centre in Turkey after the military dictatorship in the1980s.

Fraternally, with my best regards and wishes to you all, Dear Friends.

Tarık Günersel

[email protected]