Statement by John Ralston Saul International President PEN International


November 15, 2012 Istanbul

Freedom of expression is never automatic. It is always about concrete actions. These actions are what make it function.
For several years, PEN witnessed the declining number of writers either in prison in Turkey or caught up in endless and personally destructive legal mazes. You cannot blame us for having been encouraged. We were not alone. This improving situation came with increased democratization, better civilian control over the military, and economic development.

Then, abruptly, a year ago, the arrests began again, the pre-trial detentions, the dragged-out trials, the cases suspended in order to leave writers in limbo.

Worse still, we have seen the Anti-Terror Law increasingly used with a lack of rigour. This in turn has led to writers and publishers - who in our carefully researched and considered opinions have nothing to do with terrorism - becoming the unwitting victims of myriad legal traps.
In other words, the law is being used to limit freedom of expression.

PEN Turkey thanks PEN Int'l Delegation for their solidarity and contributions


Dear PEN Int'l Delegation to Turkey on 12-19 November 2012 - i.e. Dear Friends John Ralston Saul, Hori Takeaki, Eric Lax, Haroon Siddiqui, Eugene Schoulgin, Adrianne Clarkson, Marian Botsford Fraser,Larry Siems, Hyam Yared, Heger Anders, Michael Guggenheimer, Michael A. Henry, Sara Whyatt, Jo Glanville, Elnaz Baghlanian, Negar Josephi, Alev Yaman, Erda Halisdemir and Izzy Finkel,

On behalf of PEN Turkey and all the writers, journalists, translators and publishers who are in trouble for struggling in favour of freedom of expression in Turkey, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of your solidarity and contributions.

We are also aware that the Delegation represented the whole PEN Int'l Board and the thousands of other colleagues all around the world who are with us in heart.

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?
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