PEN International Sat 20 March 2021 Today the world marks World Poetry Day, an opportunity to celebrate and promote poetry and the power and creativity of language. Each year on this day, PEN International highlights the case of poets who face great challenges across the globe simply for their work, and asks its members and supporters to take action on their behalf. When I think of the poets incarcerated in the world and punished, I think of poetry. Poetry is almost the only thing that has no monetary value. You cannot sell a poem. Nobody wants to buy a poem. Poems are not for sale in the market by the apples and peaches, or in the auction houses by sculptures and paintings. I confess that it gives me a strange wonder and shock to think that a poem is so powerful and so dangerous that a poet can be locked up and sentenced to death for rhymes and couplets, for metaphors and symbols. When contemplating how dangerous poems have become, I recall the words of British poet and novelist Thomas Hardy: ‘If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the Inquisition might have let him alone’. In our times, if Galileo had inked his discoveries in free verse with stanza breaks, he might be looking at the sky- his round, telescope-shaped sky- from a prison cell. Mahvash Sabet, imprisoned in Iran in 2008 and freed 10 years later in 2017, penned impassioned poems to Fariba with whom she shared a cell at the beginning of her incarceration. Sabet wrote: ‘O my companion in the cage! How many cruelties we saw together; how many favours too and blessings in our isolation. […] They tied your wings to mine, feather to feather, and you rested your head beside mine every night’. The poet Li Bifeng, […]
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]