10.ilb - 15.09 bis 26.10.10 - Focus Osteuropa


These readings are especially intended to draw attention to  the fate of imprisoned or disappeared  authors and human rights activists such as Oleg Sentsov in Russia, Narges Mohammadi and Amirsalar Davoudi in Iran, Ahmet Altan in Turkey, Loujain Al-Hathloul in Saudi Arabia, and Wang Yi and Jian Rong in China, Razan Zaitouneh, Nazem Hammadi and Fayek El Meer in Syria, who are denied these rights due to their respective political circumstances. In Egypt, the situation has worsened so much since the establishment of the new regime that even renowned authors such as Alaa al-Aswani are no longer able to publish there and largely live abroad. Last but not least we underline the protest against the arrest of Julian Assange in London.  


On the evening of May 10, 2014, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested in Crimea, which had recently been annexed by Russia in violation of international law, and on August 25, 2015 in Moscow, he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for terrorism. There is no evidence of this, but information from Sentsov and his co-defendants indicate that they were tortured to make confessions.


Narges Mohammadi, vice-president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center and spokesperson for the Legam group, was sentenced to 16 years in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in May 2016. She is accused of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran, supporting families of political prisoners, and conspiring against national security. Mohammadi went on a hunger strike in early 2019 for not being allowed contact with her two children, despite her fragile state of health. On June 3, 2019, lawyer Amirsalar Davoudi was sentenced to 30 years in prison and 111 lashes for the alleged insult of the religious leader, propaganda against the state, and the creation of a channel on the Telegram messenger service which he used to communicate human rights abuses.


Ahmet Altan and five other Turkish journalists were sentenced to life imprisonment on February 16, 2018, the day Deniz Yücel was released. Ahmet Altan repeatedly denounced the Armenian genocide and discrimination against the Kurds. The Taraf newspaper, which he founded for this purpose, was banned by government decree after the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. On July 5, 2019, this sentence was cancelled, but 140 journalists are still in prison in this country.


Saudi Arabia is responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Loujain Al-Hathloul, a lawyer and human rights activist known for her commitment to women’s rights, is another victim. On May 15, 2018, she and other activists were arrested on the accusation that they had attempted to destabilize the kingdom. Since then, Al-Hathloul has been held in captivity. Her family reports that she has been tortured and sexually harassed.


Christian underground preacher Wang Yi, along with his wife Jiang Rong and others, was arrested on December 9, 2018 in Chengdu, southwest China, after memorializing the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 and campaigning for religious freedom each June for years. Since then, the place to where they have been abducted remains unknown. His lawyer was also arrested. The treatment of Wang Yi and the supporters of the Autumn Rain Covenant Church is symptomatic of the Chinese government’s actions against independent religious practices. The systematic persecution of the millions of mostly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang in western China and the Buddhists in Tibet is unprecedented.


The Australian author and journalist Julian Assange, arrested in London in April 2019, who is currently serving a 50 weeks jail term for violation bail terms, faces an extradition request by the U.S. with 17 charges based on the US Pre World War 1 Espionage Act, a masterpiece of political prosecution. His extradition and the following trial would set a serious precedent for all established and non established journalists.


Razan Zaitouneh, one of the best-known faces of non-violent resistance in the Syrian civil war, was kidnapped on the 9th of December 2013 from the office of the Violations Documentation Center, which she founded and in which she investigated the task of documenting human rights violations and abuses taking place in the country, as well as the human rights lawyer and poet Nazem Hammadi. Other human rights activists were arrested, right as Fayek El Meer, a member of the People’s Democratic Party in Syria, who was involved in the revolution for democratic change and against the totalitarianism of the Assad regime. There is no trace of many of them ever since.


Egypt’s regime is responsible for the massacre in Rabaa Adawiyya in eastern Cairo on August 14, 2013, which killed over 800 people. 60.000 political prisoners are currently in detention and hundreds have been sentenced to death. Journalists and artists such as the author Alaa al-Aswani are moving abroad because of threats from the military and the judiciary.


More than 70 years ago – on December 10, 1948 – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris. The freedom of expression and information is enshrined in Article 19 as follows:


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


We thus call for participation in the global reading. This can be done privately in a small circle, in a school, in a theater, or through a radio station. For the reading, we will send you a selection of texts by the aforementioned detainees promptly. On 1st of August we will publish them on this website first. Please send information about your reading to worldwidereading@literaturefestival.com so that we may communicate the events on our websites, www.literaturfestival.com and www.worldwide-reading.com.