• PEN resolution on the abduction of school-aged girls

    News and Commentary

    This resolution was passed at the 82nd PEN International Congress in Ourense, Spain:

    Violence against women and girls has long threatened freedom of expression, and the wider global context of gender inequality continues to be a very serious threat to the participation of women and girls in literature, and to the education and literacy of girls.

    In particular, the abduction of school-aged girls is an ongoing global issue and – as well as being an act of gender-based violence in and of itself – typically marks the end of an individual’s education: prohibiting her participation in, contribution to, and access to global literature both as a reader and a writer. Continue Reading »

  • Failure of protection mechanisms exposed by murder of
    third print journalist in Veracruz this year

    News and Commentary

    Press release from PEN International:

    Pedro Tamayo Rosas

    Pedro Tamayo Rosas

    Federal and state authorities must strengthen their programmes to safeguard the lives of at-risk journalists following the shocking murder of a journalist supposedly under the protection of the Veracruz government, PEN International said today. Freelancer Pedro Tamayo Rosas is the seventh print journalist to be killed in Mexico this year, and the third from Veracruz state.

    I am sickened by the killing of yet another journalist in Veracruz – all the more so because Pedro Tamayo was known to be at risk and his safety had been entrusted to the state authorities,’ said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International. Continue Reading »

  • PEN Turkey declaration on coup attempt

    News and Commentary


    We strongly condemn those who attempted a coup d’etat on July 15th. They staged an armed and bloody attack against the Parliament of our Republic of Turkey established thanks to the leadership of Atatürk.

    We once again emphasize that the principle of secularism, respecting the Constitution and laws as well as the separation of powers are vital for a true democracy and peace. We think that using mosques for political gain is a dangerous mistake. We demand that the provocative announcements that might divide the nation into enemy camps be stopped immediately; they might lead to clashes between siblings, the police, army and civilians. Continue Reading »

  • Lulu Torbet

    News and Commentary


    Lulu’s given name was Laura. Her family called her Lolly. But we here in San Miguel all knew her as Lulu.

    She was extraordinary in almost every way. She was an unusually gifted and brilliant writer and had a long career writing both her own books and ghostwriting books for others. She wrote the books for the widely read psychologist and couples therapist, Harville Hendrix and for the well-known author of The Intimate Enemy: Dr George Bach. Those books were on the best seller lists for months and months, and Lulu wrote those books! Over her long career, she wrote thirty-six books. Continue Reading »

  • A poem for Bill Pearlman

    News and Commentary

    bill_pearlmanPEN International activist Bill Pearlman died near the end  of March 2016. Here is a poem written in his memory.














    “Playing Catch”
    by Christopher Cook
    for Bill Pearlman

    I threw a baseball today and it rolled away, stopped in the grass, forlorn,
    Because Bill-Wild Bill, my baseball buddy-was not there to catch it.
    And now who’ll sit across the table at Martin’s Café
    And volley back my comment on this, or that?
    And who will send me a poem, over the transom, just because?
    And who will tell me that old story about Kesey’s clownwork?
    Or invite me to the theater for Saturday’s matinee?
    Who will now break this sudden silence?
    Who will mend this sudden break?
    I stride downfield to the ball, pick
    it up, nest it in my palm,
    Then take one step and heave it skyward, far over the treetops,
    The clouds, past the sun.
    I close my eyes against the glaring light.
    I wait for him catch it.

    (April 6, 2016)

  • The Child Soldier: From the Congo to Chicago

    News and Commentary

    by Nick Patricca with Katherine Kaufka Walts

    The forced use of a child in armed conflicts profoundly injures the person coerced and gravely insults the idea of the dignity of a human being—an essential value of our civilization and of our self-understanding.

    UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 boys and girls under the age of 18 have been forced in over 30 conflicts worldwide to use violence against others. In these armed conflicts, children are used as soldiers, messengers, smugglers of drugs and arms, and sex slaves. Some children are forcibly recruited; others are driven to join by poverty or debt. Some are ‘recruited’ with drugs, made compliant by addiction.

    In the complex interaction of violence and social systems, some children join armed groups to seek revenge for violence enacted against them or their families. ISIS has been recruiting boys as young as 10 to be suicide bombers. Nigeria’s Boko Haram has been abducting scores of young women and selling them as sex slaves as well as using boys as combatants. Continue Reading »

  • The Silencing of Writers: Saudi Arabia

    News and Commentary
    Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D'Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

    Wife and children of Raif Badawi in Place D’Youville, Old City Quebec. Photo by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman

    By Nick Patricca

    On the Rue Saint-Jean in the Place d’ Youville just inside the Gate to the Old City of Quebec, a young woman stands in silence with three young children at her side. A large photo of a man stands next to them. BADAWI is printed on the left side at the bottom of the portrait; on the right side is printed the logo of PEN International. The young woman — her name is Ensaf Haidar — is the mother of the three children: two girls and one boy, ranging in age from eleven to eight years old. Ensaf is the wife of Raif Badawi, the man in the large photo. These are his children. Though their French is limited – they are in exile in Quebec — the family stands patiently in the early morning mist of a balmy October day in the hope of making the world aware of Raif Badawi — the husband, the father, the writer – imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for planning a conference on human rights.

    Badawi was arrested in 2012, convicted in 2013 with a sentence of 7 years in prison and 600 lashes. In 2014 Badawi’s sentence was increased to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes. In January 2015, the first 50 lashes were inflicted upon him with disastrous effects on his health. The lashings are currently on hold. Continue Reading »

  • PEN Pregunta, Mexico City, February 22, 2015

    News and Commentary

    PEN Pregunta was a public protest held on 22 February 2015 in Mexico City and organised by PEN Mexico, with the participation of more than 30 authors. The writers – from Mexico and other countries – were seated alphabetically, and each given one minute to ask a question or series of questions to the Mexican authorities.

    PEN pregunta fue una protesta pública llevada a cabo el 22 de Febrero en la ciudad de Méjico, fue organizada por PEN Méjico, con la participación de más de 30 autores. Los escritores- de Méjico y otros países- se sentaron en orden alfabético, y se les dio un minuto para hacer preguntas a las autoridades mejicanas.

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