Monday, 21 November 2011

Edinburgh Makar Successfully Released on International Day of the Imprisoned Writer

Jean Rafferty and Drew Campbell drove through from Glasgow last week on the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer. Their first stop was at the Festival Theatre - who had very kindly agreed to lend us  a large and heavy metal cage. This was loaded into the van, assisted by muscle power from other PEN members, and driven to the Scottish parliament.

Ron Butlin, Edinburgh Makar, behind bars

The cage was set up in front of the Parliament after discussion with the policemen as to the best place to put it. At least it was a spacious cage for Ron Butlin, the Edinburgh Makar who soon found himself behind bars.

The event was to draw attention to the plight of writers around the world, imprisoned because of what they have written. Many countries and political regimes do not respect human rights and freedom of expression.

 A small crowd gathered. A couple of well-behaved golden haired dogs added some flashy brightness to the overcast day.  Jean Rafferty had brought along a tartan tarpaulin to put over the cage, to protect the imprisoned writer, should it rain. But it did not rain.

Several Kurdish people turned up and thanked us for making this demonstration particularly as Ragip Zarakolu a Turkish writer and publisher, has recently been arrested again in Turkey. One of them talked about how difficult it is for Kurdish people in Turkey today. He has lived in the UK for 8 years now, and he drives a taxi. He texted his friends when he heard about our event.

A few poems were read out, written by imprisoned writers, one of them Liu Xiaobo, who received the Noble Peace Prize last year but was unable to go to Oslo to receive it. Scottish PEN organized the creation of a special 'imprisoned writer empty chair', which flew to Oslo to be present at the Nobel Prize ceremony, symbolizing those writers unable to attend because of arrest, detention or imprisonment in their own country.

There was coverage of the event by
the Edinburgh Evening News, the BBC's Book Cafe, STV online and BBC Alba, who filmed the event, as part of a programme about Ragip Zarakolu.

Morelle Smith

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