It was on a Novem­ber evening, as autum­nal as it can get in Paris, at l’E­space Femmes — Antoinette Fouque.

Français | English

The Alliance des Femmes (Wom­en’s Alliance) and the French rep­re­sen­ta­tives of PEN Inter­na­tion­al had extend­ed an invi­ta­tion for an evening of bilin­gual read­ings, in sup­port for per­se­cut­ed authors. It was the sec­ond such event. We were there in Novem­ber 2018 also, and with good reason…

Artist, author and jour­nal­ist Zehra Doğan was still impris­onned at the time. Her “escaped” works were already cir­cu­lat­ing in Europe, in the care of the Kedis­tan Asso­ci­a­tion that was thus con­tribut­ing to a sol­i­dar­i­ty cam­paign for the artist. PEN Inter­na­tion­al had placed her on its “list”, a list that “hoped to be trans­formed into a list of names of peo­ple whose lib­er­a­tion would be celebrated.”

Just as the beat­ing of a but­ter­fly­’s wings can pro­duce a dis­place­ment of air at the oth­er end of the world, the evening in 2018 led to the pub­li­ca­tion of Zehra Doğan’s book “Nous aurons aus­si de beaux jours”, prison writ­ings by Edi­tions des femmes and this exhi­bi­tion of over fifty of her works, scenographed by Philippe Leduc, the set­ting for this evening ded­i­cat­ed to “Endan­gered Writ­ers”. This time, Zehra was on hand, fol­low­ing her release in Feb­ru­ary 2019.

Some will object “oh, all those useless days and evenings held in select groups of cognoscenti.”

The answer to that comes from those who were lib­er­at­ed and who say: “You can­not imag­ine how the thought that some­where some­one was read­ing my words, the thought that sol­i­dar­i­ty was expressed for those words that were reach­ing you, helped me to endure being shut up in jails, and encour­aged me to fight on.”

If no one talks about a polit­i­cal pris­on­er, per­se­cut­ed for her free­dom of expres­sion, her art, her writ­ing or her fights against obscu­ran­tism and dic­ta­tor­ships, if such a pris­on­er is for­got­ten, she sees her resis­tance becom­ing use­less and her jailors can increase the vio­lence against her. If, at a min­i­mum, these evenings serve some pur­pose, that is the one. And that is already a lot in terms of a strug­gle against resignation.

Such evenings serve to pay trib­ute to resis­tance, to sup­port the pris­on­ers, to make their con­di­tion known and from word of mouth or through their writ­ings, to let the per­se­cu­tors know that human con­sciences are keep­ing watch against their crimes.
And each lib­er­a­tion is a victory.

• That of Aslı Erdoğan, still under tri­al in Turkey despite her exile and cur­rent­ly the vic­tim of an igno­ble media cam­paign, was an event cel­e­brat­ed at the end of 2016 by all her sup­port­ers, PEN Inter­na­tion­al among them. This lat­est evening also paid her trib­ute since her health did not allow her to be on hand. Zehra Dogan read one of Asli’s texts with great feel­ing: “The jour­nal of fas­cism: Today”. This text appears in the pros­e­cu­tor’s indict­ment against her.

• That of Zehra Doğan for whom this Novem­ber 15 was the oppor­tu­ni­ty to cel­e­brate and to appre­ci­ate her lib­er­a­tion while know­ing that she now car­ries the torch for oth­ers arrest­ed since or still in jail, in order to bring light on their sit­u­a­tion also.

An emp­ty chair and a por­trait sym­bol­ized the absence of Stel­la Nyanzi, an Ugan­dan resis­tor, an anthro­pol­o­gist, Ph.d., fem­i­nist, defendor of LGBTI rights, cur­rent­ly in jail.

Dur­ing these Novem­ber evenings, the for­mat calls for the read­ing of texts, all more poignant the one than the oth­er by poets, authors and peo­ple from the artis­tic com­mu­ni­ty. These texts gave rise to pow­er­ful read­ings, while one woman now in France pro­vid­ed infor­ma­tion that calls into ques­tion ready-made ideas about per­se­cut­ed peo­ples, ideas that Chi­na and oth­ers, spread like a smoke­screen over the oppres­sion and ongo­ing cul­tur­al geno­cides — if not more. Soon we will open Kedis­tan’s pages to the one who did such a fine job of defend­ing the cause of peo­ples on whom false claims of reli­gious indoc­tri­na­tion are used as cov­er-ups for their confinement.

The evening con­clud­ed with a mul­ti­ple-voice read­ing of Elu­ard’s “Lib­erté” in as many lan­guages as pos­si­ble, thanks to the for­eign lan­guage speak­ers on hand. The text was accom­pa­nied at the piano by Emmanuel Big­ot, an actor also present on this Novem­ber evening.

That an intel­lec­tu­al, a per­son­al­i­ty in the world of art, an author, in short, what is often referred to as a mem­ber of the elite, who instead of swear­ing alle­giance to a flag or mak­ing an osten­si­ble show of sign­ing pres­ti­gious peti­tions puts his or her noto­ri­ety at the ser­vice of human sol­i­dar­i­ty, with­out expect­ing any­thing oth­er in return except the sat­is­fac­tion of a lib­er­a­tion has become such a rare occur­rence. More’s the rea­son to men­tion it with a warm salutation.

Participating in the event: Elisabeth Nicoli Emmanuel Pierrat, Andreas Becker, Colette Klein, Philippe Bouret, Zehra Doğan, Naz Oke, Francis Coffinet, Marina Vlady, Cecile Oumhani, Leila Bahsain, Izabella Borges, Rita Grillo, Kubra Kedhemi, Chochana Boukhobza, Mecieji Patronik, Cristina Botta, Hervé Vilard, Dilnur Reyhan, Julien Cendre, with the voice of Celine Brulot and Emmanuel Bigot at the piano. With apologies to anyone we may have omitted mentioning…

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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