Poetry and Politics

On Sunday, I went to one of the daily free readings featured in the Imprisoned Writers series.   Run by Amnesty International in conjunction with the Edinburgh Book Festival, these events take place nowhere else in the world.   Valerie Martin and Gill Scharff read poems from ‘silenced’ writers.  The main speaker was Taner Akcam, a Turkish historian, sociologist and author who was the first to speak openly about the Armenian genocide of 1915 by the Ottoman Turkish government.  He was imprisoned in 1976 for his work on a student journal which commented on the treatment of the Kurdish minority.  He was adopted by Amnesty as a prisoner of conscience and attributes his subsequent freedom to its involvement.

He gave us what he called ‘a slice of his life’.  It was offered with no trace of bitterness and with a lightness of touch and the affirmation that his sufferings were as nothing compared with others.  His integrity and courage impressed all the more.  I was powerfully reminded of my freedom to write and the importance of remaining vigilant on behalf of such freedom.

The session ended with an appeal for action on behalf of Shi Tao, a Chinese poet and jourmalist now serving a 10 year sentence for passing on, via his yahoo account, an internal government email about how the 15th anniversary of Tiananmen Square was to be handled by journalists.  You can find out more and join the campaign if you wish by clicking here

Nazand Beghikhani was one of the writers featured.  You can read one of her poems on  Exiled Writers Ink.  She currently works for the BBC.

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