Published by Uyghur PEN on 1st May 2021 A prominent Uyghur writer Ahtam Omar, well known to the Uyghur people with his numerous stories, novels and screen writings, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the authorities of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. According to the Radio Free Asia Uyghur Service report, Ahtam Omer, who had been missing since early 2017, had been detained and that his book was ripped from shelvesacross the region last year and set alight as part of a campaign to censor him.” Ahtam Omer was detained from his home on March 12, 2017, in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi) prefecture’s Makit (Maigaiti) county, a month after his brother Anwar Omer and nephew Iskander Omer. The source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The basic reason for this, the reason was given at the time, was that he had sent his older brother’s son to study in Egypt and sent money to him.” The source said, “Ahtam Omer’s literary work was stopped during the police investigation into his activities, after which he was charged with “separatism” and sentenced to prison in a secret trial in the XUAR capital. Urumqi in late 2018.”[i] Ahtam Omar was born in 1962 in Makit County. He graduated from Kashgar Pedagogical School in 1981, worked as a rural Union cadre, presenter for the Kashgar Municipal Radio Station and professional writer of the Prefectural Literary and Artistic Association; screenwriter for the Tangritagh Film Production Studio, and for the Xinjiang Song and Dance Troupe. He joined the Chinese Writers’ Association in 2008. Ahtam Omer is an outstanding Uyghur writer with his unique style. “The greetings to the homeland from distance horizon”, which published at the beginning of the 1990s, became one of the most-read novels. That novel depicted the author’s visit to […]
Uyghur PEN Centre was formally accepted as a member of PEN International during the Assembly of Delegates of the 74th International PEN World Congress on 6th October 2008 in Bogota, Colombia.
Uyghur PEN Centre is dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, thought and information for all. It stands in solidarity with writers everywhere who have been forced into silence by censorship. Uyghur PEN’s main activities are to protect and raise awareness of arrested Uyghur writers, poets, journalists and artistsin the Uyghur homeland of East Turkistan (Xinjiang, China).
The current president is Hamit Hemrayew, a Uyghur writer based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The current secretary is Aziz Isa Elkun, a Uyghur poet and writer based in London.
Uyghur PEN Centre currently has 44 active members.
Uyghur PEN is now 12 years old; what we have achieved?
Uyghur PEN Centre is now 12 years old.When he established Uyghur PEN Centre in 2006, the first president Kurash Kusan believed in peaceful dialogue in the face of ethnic tension, suspicion and hatred, and this remains the core of Uyghur PEN’s philosophy. Today, his dream of a PEN centre dedicated promoting free speech in East Turkistan and Central Asia is thriving. Our membership is steadily growing, as well as our programs. In 2009 we helped launch the Ural-Altaic PEN Network and in February 2010, then Uyghur PEN opened an office in Lund, Sweden. It’s office moved to London since 2017.
In April 2010, Uyghur PEN Centre launched its English-Uyghur bilingual official website www.uyghurpen.orgwhich is active until today. 2010 also marks our first international campaign for the release of the writer Nurmuhemmet Yasin. We are also working on a public database to track the harassment and imprisonment of writers in Xinjiang.
Through the efforts of our members in Kazakhstan we publish a seasonal literary magazine “Uyghur PEN Magazine” (in Uyghur and Russian languages) beginning in 2013.
In 2009, Uyghur PEN Centre and other PEN centres teamed up to create a new regional PEN network, the Ural-Altaic PEN Network. The network groups a string of countries across Europe and Asia (from Finland and Hungary in the west to Korea and Japan in the east) where Uralic or Altaic languages are spoken.
On 28 August 2017, for the first time, Swedish, Uyghur, Tibetan and Independent Chinese PEN Centres came together and successfully held “The First International Conference of Four-PEN Platform” in Malmö City hall in Sweden. At the end of the conference, Uyghur Centre held its board members meeting and member’s election. During the meeting, Aziz Isa Elkun, board member, was elected as secretary of Uyghur PEN Centre.
Since 2017, many western media have reported that more than a million Uyghurs are detained in China’s internment camps in East Turkistan (Xinjiang/China) including numerous Uyghur academics, writers, journalists, artists and public figures. China has enforced a communication blockade for the Uyghurs between home and abroad, and foreign reporters have been banned from reporting from the region.
Uyghur PEN Centre has been focusing on the internment camps, working in collaboration with other PEN Centres and Human Rights NGOs to protect and raise awareness of arrested Uyghur writers, poets, journalists, artists. We were very pleased to be able to attend PEN International 84thWorld Congress in Pune, India from 25-29 September 2018. During the Congress, we attended the panel of Writers in Prison Committee, where we presented on the situation of arrested Uyghur writers and academics, as well as the crisis of “concentration camps” in East Turkistan, and we urged worldwide PEN Centres to take action to defend Uyghur rights. At the end of Congress, a resolution on the People’s Republic of China was approved by the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International.
In November 2018, we organized a large-scale “Uyghur Culture Night” event in Londonin collaboration with the Uyghur Community UK, to raise awareness of the issues.We are actively searching for future collaborations with other PEN Centres, as well as maintaining effective communication with PEN International Secretariat. [Full]