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Mahvash Sabet/English PEN

We have received this information from our colleagues in English PEN as part of their PENWrites campaign. Please follow the links to learn more about Mahvash Sabet, to read some of her memoir, and to write her a message of solidarity.

If you write to her, please say that you are a member of Irish PEN. This helps them with their records.

Mahvash Sabet is an award-winning poet and teacher from Iran. In 2017, she was chosen as the winner of the PEN Pinter Prize for a Writer of Courage by fellow poet Michael Longley.

Having already spent several long years in detention between 2008 and 2017, Mahvash Sabet was once again arrested in Iran in July 2022. She has since been sentenced to a further ten years in prison on spurious charges.

PEN is deeply concerned by reports that Sabet has been subjected to torture in detention. We continue to call for her immediate and unconditional release, and for the release of the many other Iranians currently in detention in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

English PEN has announced Mahvash Sabet as an Honorary Member.She is featured in their ongoing PENWrites campaign. Please take a few moments to send her a message of solidarity and hope.

You can read some of Mahvash Sabet’s memoir and poetry here:

https://pentransmissions.com/

PEN Friends

Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of Victoria Amelina

3rd July 2023: A Statement from Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann on the death of our dear friend Victoria Amelina


Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is shocked and appalled by the news that renowned Ukrainian author and human rights activist, Victoria Amelina, has been murdered by a Russian missile strike on a popular restaurant in Kramatorsk on 27th June 2023. Twelve other people, including children, are known to have been killed in this vicious attack. Sixty people were injured.
Victoria was a dear friend and much loved colleague. She has visited Dublin several times. Everyone who has met her, read her work or heard her speak here, has been moved and affected by her words and by her presence.  At an Irish PEN event in Smock Alley during the Dublin Arts and Human Rights Festival last October, she spoke powerfully and movingly about the Russian invasion of her native country, and of Russia’s intention to obliterate all traces of Ukrainian culture. She also described her own work in progress: War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War, and her ongoing humanitarian work as a war crimes investigator with Truth Hounds.
During that same visit to Dublin, Victoria kept young children enthralled and entertained during a storytelling session at Pearse Street Library. Both of these Irish PEN events were supported by Dublin UNESCO City of Literature. At a Vicar Street concert earlier this year, organised by, among others,  Fighting Words and Ukrainian Action Ireland, Victoria stilled the packed theatre with her words, redolent of her courage and determination to secure justice. Two of her essays in English were republished here last year: “Nothing Bad Has Ever Happened”, in the Irish Times, and “Homo Oblivious” in the Dublin Review of Books. Both of these essays predate the illegal Russian invasion of last February.
Although she was an award-winning novelist, Victoria set her own career aside, as many other Ukrainians have, in order to work for her country. She spoke of turning to poetry in the midst of this challenging work: ‘As if shells hit language/ the debris from language/ may look like poems/ But they are not/ This is no poetry too/ Poetry is in Kharkiv/ volunteering for the army’.
When asked how she managed to bear the emotional impact of dealing with atrocities on a daily basis, she said lightly of her and her colleagues’ hugely challenging work: ‘We hug a lot’.

Victoria was due to come back to Dublin in November, to moderate an Irish PEN/ Dublin Book Festival event exploring the role of culture in times of war and the absolute necessity to preserve it, describing writers as ‘caretakers of cultural memory’.
Philippe Sands says that Victoria’s death is “emblematic of a merciless and terrible war, prosecuted by men who feel no compunction acting in manifest violation of the most basic precepts of humanity. Victoria Amelina is gone, but she will always be present, her values embodied in the decency she represented and the accountability she sought. Her killing is a most terrible crime – her legacy will include a renewed and unbreakable commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such  horrors, in a land she cared for with passion and brilliance.”
Paul Muldoon writes: “Let’s be clear about this. This was not an accident. The type of missile used in this attack is deadly accurate. This was a civilian target and represents a war crime pure and simple.”
The world is a darker place today. Victoria Amelina, award-winning writer and war crimes investigator, has become the most recent victim in a long list of brutal war crimes perpetrated by Russia against the civilian population of Ukraine. Our sincere condolences go to her family, her many friends, and to her colleagues in PEN Ukraine and Truth Hounds. We call for an immediate end to such atrocities. (End statement)

Chytomo: Natalya Korniyenko Interview with Victoria Amelina (undated)

The following is one of a series of interviews conducted by Chythomo, a project exploring writers’ contribution to the war effort in Ukraine.

Philippe Sands: Remembering marvellous Victoria Amelina

The killing of Viktoria Amelina, who has died of injuries suffered during last week’s Russian missile attack on a restaurant in Kramatorsk, deprives Lviv, Ukraine and the world of an outstanding writer, an individual who reflected the best of modern Ukraine – humour, tenacity and warmth, coupled with a brilliantly open spirit and a courageous soul. Just a few months ago, at the Book Festival in Lviv, her beloved home city, she captivated us on life, love, family and crimes, her work on the coming War and Justice Diary: Looking at Women Looking at War. ‘They are targeting all of us’, she said in our public conversation, ‘and for me that is a genocide’. Her life was emblematic of remarkable Lviv, her death is emblematic of a merciless and terrible war, prosecuted by men who feel no compunction acting in manifest violation of the most basic precepts of humanity. Victoria Amelina is gone, but she will always be present, her values embodied in the decency she represented and the accountability she sought. Her killing is a most terrible crime – her legacy will include a renewed and unbreakable commitment to accountability for those who perpetrate such  horrors, in a land she cared for with passion and brilliance.  

Philippe Sands, July 3, 2023, 08h00.

PEN INTERNATIONAL STATEMENT ABOUT THE MURDER OF VICTORIA AMELINA


Ukraine: PEN International mourns the killing of writer and PEN Ukraine member Victoria Amelina

03 July 2023 – PEN International joins PEN Ukraine in mourning the killing of writer, PEN Ukraine member and human rights defender Victoria Amelina, following a horrific Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine on 27 June 2023. Amelina was seriously injured and rushed to hospital in Dnipro. She passed away on 1 July 2023. She was 37 years old.

In a statement published on 2 July 2023, PEN Ukraine said:

‘With our greatest pain, we inform you that Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina passed away on 1 July in Mechnikov Hospital in Dnipro. Her death was caused by injuries incompatible with life, which she suffered from during the Russian missile shelling of a restaurant in Kramatorsk on 27 June 2023. We are announcing this news now when all Victoria’s family members have learned about it and with their consent (…). Victoria Amelina, Ukrainian writer and member of PEN Ukraine, who has been documenting Russian war crimes with the human rights initiative Truth Hounds, was in Kramatorsk with a delegation of Colombian writers and journalists. As they were having dinner at the Ria Lounge restaurant downtown, Russians launched a missile attack on this restaurant. Victoria was severely injured. Doctors and paramedics in Kramatorsk and Dnipro did everything they could to save her life, but the injuries were fatal and incompatible with life. In the last days of Victoria’s life, her closest people and friends were with her (…). For us, Victoria’s friends, and colleagues, it is very important the cultural initiatives set up by her, could last. Very soon we will share with you information about the ways you can support her life’s work.’

Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International, said:

We are devasted by the killing of our friend and PEN member Victoria Amelina. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones during these terrible times. Victoria’s strength, selflessness, and determination in the face of adversity have been an inspiration to us all. As we grieve her loss, her words, writings, and voice will forever resonate with us. Today is a tragic day for the PEN community, who stands with everyone at PEN Ukraine. Those responsible for her killing must be brought to justice.’

Born in 1986, Victoria Amelina was a prize-winning writer and poet, and founder of the New York Literature Festival in the Donetsk region, Eastern Ukraine. Since the Russian Federation’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Amelina had been documenting war crimes with the human rights initiative Truth Hounds, and notably uncovered the war diary of Ukrainian writer Volodymyr Vakulenko, who was abducted by Russian forces on 24 March 2022. On 28 November 2022, after the Ukrainian army recaptured Izium from Russian forces, DNA analysis confirmed that the body found in grave N.319 in the woods of Izium was that of Vakulenko. Amelina had recently taken part in the first presentation of his war diary at the Book Arsenal literary festival in Kyiv on 23 June 2023.

PEN International has repeatedly called on the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally end its devastating war against Ukraine, including through a Resolution adopted at PEN International’s 88th annual Congressin September 2022, a statement marking a year of war crimes and resolve in Ukraine, and a Declaration of PEN International’s Writers for Peace Committee issued in May 2023.

Full statement available here: https://www.pen-international.org/news/pen-international-mourns-the-killing-of-victoria-amelina

WRITER AND PEN UKRAINE MEMBER VICTORIA AMELINA SERIOUSLY INJURED IN RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE ON KRAMATORSK

(Statement from PEN International)

Members and Board members of Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann are appalled and devastated by the news that our dear friend, award-winning writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina, has been injured in a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk. We wish, as hard as we have ever wished for anything, that Victoria will have a swift recovery. Here is a statement from PEN International:

29 June – PEN International joins PEN Ukraine in condemning the horrific Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk, Eastern Ukraine on 27 June 2023. Twelve people had been killed and more than 60 wounded at the time of writing, including writer, PEN Ukraine member and human rights defender Victoria Amelina, who remains in hospital.

Victoria was in Kramatorsk with Colombian writer Héctor Abad Faciolince, journalist Catalina Gómez Ángel and politician Sergio Jaramillo at the time of the attack. The Colombian delegates sustained minor injuries… more on the PEN International website.

Emergency Resource List (for writers and journalists at risk)

NB: This list has been checked/updated as far as possible in August 2022

PEN CENTRES:

PEN International: The PEN Emergency Fund provides assistance to persecuted writers and journalists who are in acute financial need. For more information, please contact Aurélia Dondo, Europe Programme Coordinator at PEN International: 

aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

PEN America administer an emergency fund:

https://pen.org/campaign/pen-america-writers-emergency-fund/

PEN America also has a guide to digital security/online harassment
https://onlineharassmentfieldmanual.pen.org

PEN Finland’s Hate Speech Toolkit: https://www.suomenpen.fi/userassets/uploads/2021/06/the-hate-speech-toolkit-en-110621-web.pdf

OTHER RESOURCES

ARTICLE 19 is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response which has funding for legal and protection costs for journalists, along with monitoring and advocacy. https://www.mfrr.eu  

Front Line Defenders offers emergency assistance, financial support and training – including around digital security – to eligible journalists facing threats in Northern Ireland. Apply online: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/programme/protection-grants 

Front Line Defenders also have a comprehensive list of other funding options on their website: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/resource-publication/other-funding-organisations

Human Rights Watchhttps://www.hrw.org/human-rights-watch/hellman-hammett-grants

International Federation of Journalistshttps://www.ifj.org/safety-fund.html

International Media Support https://www.mediasupport.org/what-we-do/safety-for-journalists/#safety-fund

Journalists in Distress network https://www.journalistsindistress.org/ 

This is a group of organisations who provide emergency support, many of them listed here. It might be worth familiarising yourself with this site prior to an emergency to identify which of the organisations are most likely to be able to help if and when needed.

Reporters sans Frontières: Assistance for Journalists 

https://rsf.org/en/individual-support

The Rory Peck Trust provides assistance and support to freelance journalists and their families worldwide: https://rorypecktrust.org/

They also have a risk assessment guide:

The Society of Authors runs The Authors’ Contingency fund. Writers can apply directly to the SoA for support:
https://www.societyofauthors.org/Grants/contingency-funds

Risk Assessment

PEN Finland’s Hate Speech Toolkit: https://www.suomenpen.fi/userassets/uploads/2021/06/the-hate-speech-toolkit-en-110621-web.pdf

Rory Peck Trust (see above):

Letter to Irish PEN members from Ilhan Sami Çomak, translated by Paula Darwish.

The prize-winning Kurdish poet Ilhan Sami Çomak has been in prison in Turkey for 28 years, since he was 22 years old. During his confinement, Çomak has written eight award-winning collections of poetry. His first collection in English, Separated from the Sun, edited and with an Introduction by Welsh poet and translator Caroline Stockford, was published in September by Smokestack Books.
During his confinement, Çomak has become a highly-respected poet, with a growing international reputation.

Irish PEN/PEN na hÉireann is honoured Ilhan Sami Çomak has accepted to be our first Honorary Member. Please find below Ilhan Sami Çomak’s powerful letter to Irish PEN members.

July 2022,

Dear Friends,

I think the reason why people make so many mistakes in life is that they have no access to the possibilities of words, to the opportunity to speak and write. In fact, speaking is a youthful behaviour, while silence is ancient. But it is this youthfulness, above all else, that has the capacity to change the world or us as people.

However you look at it, words and writing are the resistance point as we reach into the infinitely distant expanse that we call the future. When those of us who reject the tyranny of the present seek to invoke the new and beautiful, words are the most viable and humane invention we have at our disposable. I’m sure you already know this story, but I feel the need to share it with you again as it has had a great effect on me: According to belief, Saint Patrick prayed with such fervour and sincerity in the yard of the church on Church Island that the imprint of his knees was left in the ground stones. I think this is a very accurate representation of the proven power of words – be it prayers, poetry or novels – to bring about change and the place this has in our lives. That’s why I sincerely believe that words and writing are a critical factor in our tenacious grip on life.

As far as I can see, this is the reason why every poet and writer writes – more than anything, it is to change their life and themselves in line with their beliefs.

I write poetry for the sake of life and to stay alive, for my deep connection with life, because I miss life, because it brings life to my cell, because I love life and people with a passion and because I believe in life and myself. The continuity of this belief is all I have.

Discovering and understanding life through poetry, together with the persistence of my efforts, eventually altered me and my expectations from life. In fact, life has changed with me. Over these 28 years of unrelenting confinement, I missed life so much, I spoke of so many longings that in the end the longings took on a life of their own; with poetry, above all with poetry, I woke up to life.

Poetry took me by the hand; as I negotiated the unending contradiction of living between the heavy, poisonous pain of my experiences and the beauty and lightness of the things I wanted to experience, it gave me the acute insight I needed to keep my balance. It protected me from reality by supporting my dreams in the circumstances of this place, where time and space are defiled by constant repetition and high walls. The fact that I am still alive and well, despite all these years of unjust confinement, is undoubtedly due to my unrelenting efforts to reach the life envisioned by poetry, and through the act of writing about them, to reach all the things I miss. I may not have the fervent power of St Patrick, but I do have avid, tireless desires that know where and what they should gravitate towards. I want to live; that is why I cling to words and writing, the greatest invention of humankind.

Dear friends, despite this immense ordeal, my voice and my words crossed the seas to reach you. You called out to me with your friendship, taking my hand and my poetry. I see that as proof of poetry’s mighty heart, which can overcome any adversity. And I also see this call as a beacon, signalling that somewhere in every time and space there are warm-hearted people who know what is good, who create goodness and recognise the capacity of words and imagination to change the world.

It is an honour to be accepted as a member of Irish PEN. The step you have taken has given me great strength. Now I am closer to the outside, nearer to clean, fresh air. It’s beautiful to feel the warmth of your hand of friendship! I thank you with all my heart.

From Words to Bullets: Ukrainian Writers and Journalists on the Russo-Ukrainian War

“Words and Bullets” is an online media project launched by the Ukrainian cultural and publishing media Chytomo and PEN Ukraine with support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This is a series of interviews with writers and journalists who became soldiers or volunteers following the Russian invasion. 

The authors and journalists featured in this project all see their lives as divided into a “before and after”. The explosions that rocked Ukrainian cities on Feb. 24 forever changed their personal trajectories. Some left their homes and rushed to save children or elderly parents, others joined the volunteer movement that helps supply the Ukrainian army, and many joined the Ukrainian territorial defense forces or the Armed Forces of Ukraine. 

The project started in June 2022, more than ten interviews with authors and journalists who became soldiers or volunteers due to the war will be published in Chytomo.

Some interviews are already available in English:

https://chytomo.com/en/oleksiy-sinchenko-the-war-makes-you-forget-everything-you-have-learned-before-and-begin-from-scratch/

https://chytomo.com/en/valeriy-puzik-the-war-is-when-everyone-does-what-it-takes/

https://chytomo.com/en/dmytro-krapyvenko-it-is-important-to-talk-about-the-losses-in-order-not-to-get-delusional-and-think-that-there-are-some-immortals-fighting-on-our-side/
https://chytomo.com/en/dnistrovy-russia-s-war-against-ukraine-is-its-last-cry-in-the-desert/
https://chytomo.com/en/soldier-artem-chapeye-if-i-hadn-t-gone-the-first-day-i-would-have-gone-a-week-later/
https://chytomo.com/en/halyna-kruk-war-as-an-existential-crisis-gives-birth-to-very-bright-manifestations-of-culture/