Message to Swedish PEN for Mehmed Uzun

Rojbaş, Dear Friends.

We remember and miss our dear member Mehmed Uzun, who was (and is) not only an important master of Kurdish Literature but also of World Literature.

On behalf of PEN Turkey, hoping that the Kurdish Language and Literature will develop freely and be known better in the world, I extend my greetings to his dear wife Zozan Uzun and to all of you. I am grateful to our sister centre Swedish PEN -dear President Ola Larsmo and all the other members- for this activity. Swedish PEN has always been sensitive in terms of human rights.

Tarik Günersel
President of PEN Turkey

PEN Turkey Int’l Short Story Award goes to Aschalew Kebede of Ethiopia

It is our pleasure to announce that the PEN Turkey International Short Story Award has been given to an outstanding author from Ethiopia: Mr. Aschalew Kebede. Born in 1971, Aschalew Kebede has written on the history and culture of Ethiopia as well as stories, novels and articles. He also translates stories from German into Amhara. He gives seminars on creative writing and creative reading.

Kebede has kindly accepted the award: “It is a great honour and pleasure for me to receive this award. In my culture there is a saying: ‘A man would be most pleased when people passionately greet his child.’ What good thing is there in the world other than this? Thank you PEN Turkey.”

The decision was reached after the preliminary research by Turkish PEN Translation & Linguistic Rights Committee led by Chair Prof. Aysu Erden, and the subsequent cooperation of the Ethiopian PEN Board.

As all PEN members know, marketing priorities block a significant amount of good literature. So, in 2007, Turkish PEN decided to present international awards in three genres: Short Story (paying tribute to the 7th century story teller Dede Korkut), Novel (paying tribute to Halide Edip Adıvar, the woman novelist who was the first president of PEN Turkey in 1950), and Poetry (paying tribute to the 13th century humanist poet Yunus Emre). Our goal was (and is) to learn more about literary works in non-dominant languages and to promote them in Turkey in the spirit of PEN Charter.

Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık Become PEN WIPC Members

Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener and his wife Vecide Şener joined the Turkish PEN Board meeting in Istanbul on 6 April 2012, three weeks after their release.

Nedim Şener’s 8 year-old daughter Defne has begun to add a door and a window to the houses she draws –since her father’s release. “During her father’s imprisonment, for a year, the houses she drew had no doors or windows,” her psychologist told Mr and Mrs Şener.

Members of PEN Turkey since last spring, both Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık have recently been chosen by Danish PEN Centre as Honorary Members. Both journalists have expressed gratitude to PEN International, PEN Turkey, Danish PEN and other sister centres for their solidarity.

PEN Short Story Award goes to Prof. Dr. Tahsin Yücel PEN Short Story Award goes to Prof. Dr. Tahsin Yücel

On World Short Story Day, February 14th,Turkish PEN Short Story Award was presented to Prof.Dr.Tahsin YÜCEL, as a sign of gratitute for his outstanding works of fiction -stories and novels. He is also a critic and a translator who has translated numerous works by French authors into Turkish.

There was an Empty Chair on the stage as a reminder of arrested writers, translators, journalists and publishers in the world, one fifth of who are in Turkey, including 6 PEN members: Mustafa BALBAY(Journalist), Muharrem ERBEY (Writer, lawyer and human rights activist), Nedim ŞENER (Journalist), Ahmet ŞIK (Journalist), Halim YAZICI (Poet) and Ragıp ZARAKOLU (Writer and publisher).

Photo: Tarik Günersel (PEN Int'l Board Member and President of PEN Turkey) - Prof Dr. Tahsin Yücel - Zeynep Aliye (Chair of Short Story Committee)

(Photo by Ismail Afacan from Evrensel newspaper.)

A Eulogy of Jiří Gruša' by John Ralston Saul

Dear Members of Czech PEN, Austrian PEN and German PEN,

This letter is addressed especially to you because at various times of Jiří Gruša's life you were his immediate PEN family.

The first shock of his death has now passed. Today I began to think about just how young Jiří was, and therefore how many words will not be written. All of us, I know, are also thinking of Jiří and Sabine; how close they were; how sad we must all be for Sabine.

When I heard the awful news my first thought was of how, as President, he was the perfect evocation of PEN. Here was the quintessential man of the word. And because of those words he was pursued, persecuted, arrested, jailed. His citizenship was stripped from him. He was driven into exile.

And yet, when it was over and the political persecution had ended, he came home and simply set to work with his words – writing and serving the public good.

When we elected him as president, one of his first statements was that “freedom of expression is actually freedom from hatred”. He continually rose above that level at which bitterness for wrongs done may function; the sort of bitterness which clouds principles. And as International President, he immediately spoke up on behalf of “small literatures”, by which he meant “all indigenous literatures”.

There was, as we all experienced, a wonderful irony to Jiří’s view of the world. A constant humour. But it was a complex, literary humour in which irony could play a central role. That irony was part of the nobility with which he rose above short-term

Thank you for your messages regarding the earthquake in eastern Turkey

Dear PEN Members all over the world,

Thank you so much for the messages regarding the tragic losses due to the earthquake in Van. Our International President John Ralston Saul, the International Treasurer Eric Lax, Ekbal Baraka the President of Egypt PEN and other colleagues have sent messages -which we have mentioned to the press in Turkey.

As PEN Turkey, we have criticised the government for certain shortcomings. A lot needs to be done.

Best wishes,

Tarik Günersel
Int'l Board Member & President of PEN Turkey

Interview with Marian Botsford Fraser, the International Chair of PEN Writers in Prison Committee

The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet (Republic), a leading newspaper in favour of secularism and democratization, has recently held a full page interview with Ms Marian Botsford Fraser, PEN Int'l Chair of Writers in Prison Committee. The interviewer was Meltem Yilmaz, a young woman journalist. For the published interview in Turkish, you can visit

And here is the English original:

Q: I’d like to initiate this interview with your observations of the WiPC Conference in Brussels. Could you tell us your observations of the conference in Brussels on 24th- 27th March. Which subjects were emphasized, what kind of decisions were made?

PEN-Turkey condemns Israeli attack on the humanitarian-aid ships

As the PEN Centre of Turkey, we strongly condemn the Israeli government's illegal and inhuman attack on the humanitarian-aid ships that were sailing in international waters on their way to Gaza, and we invite Israeli writers to condemn this attack. It is a duty of each human being to respect and remember the murdered volunteers.
PEN Centre of Turkey


Since the early paleolithic ages, since the period when pictures were drawn on the walls of the Altemira caves in Spain, human beings have always conveyed their stories to the next generations. The way the enchanting discourses were derived from nature and the way they were used during the shamanistic rituals, long before the monotheistic religions, the narratives of Homeros of Smyrna, the epic of Gilgamesh, the itineraries of the famous Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi and all the other tales, legends and myths have joined hands and have travelled together throughout the centuries.

Man is telling his own stories since the time when he first started to convert his voice into statement. Since then, all the sounds have found their appropriate places on the tablets, on the papyri and finally on the papers and pages. All these efforts have constituted a whole: the totality of all the ways how man has come face to face with his own self. Man’s questioning his own existance in naïveté has always been found throughout history, even long before writing has been invented.

Human beings try to reach their own utopias persistently. When we study the losses of mankind in its ancient history, we clearly see that this persistency has roots in the distant past of humanity. We have put an end to the twentieth century which was full of injustice and bloodbath. We have welcomed the twenty first century with the hope that it would heal the destructive effects of the twentieth century. There were feasts and cheer in honour of this new century…Our efforts to amuse ourselves were full of hope but ad interim at the same time. Even if this seemed to be a situation that should be tolerated, our hopeful expectations backfired within a short time. This new century bears all the negativity of the previous century.

At this stage short stories were written. They are still being written. The short story draws strength from its own utopia, not from belief. This is because, utopia is by no means an abstract concept. If societies themselves try to attain other ways of living in which they will be able to battle for the values of the mankind and if they are capable of criticising the control of power, then they will never lose their own energy to renew the order in a society.

Utopia enlightens our minds as a phenomenon that is open to debate and criticism. The short story genre, which extends from an ancient tradition to our modern age, will strengthen and increase the rapidity of the throbbing of its heart. To repeat once again, utopia, in my opinion, is not only an abstract concept.

We take great pleasure in celebrating the 14 February-World Short Story Day.


(Translated into English by Aysu Erden)
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