Winternachten festival opens with Oxfam Novib PEN Awards ceremony
The Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli and the Palestinian writer Dareen Tatour are the winners of this year's Oxfam Novib PEN Awards. Thursday 17 January 2019, Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes will hand over the awards during the Opening Night of the Winternachten interational literature The Hague.
"Freedom to write in a critical way is not self-evident everywhere," says Servaes. "In some countries a critical remark may be deadly for writers. Writers who dare to raise their voices are indispensable to expose abuses and to work on a more righteous society. We can not pass by their power and courage to continue despite all threats. Despite all intimidations Tatour and Belli refuse to put down their pens. With the Oxfam Novib PEN Award we emphasize how important their contribution is for a more righteous world."
The Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was sentenced by the Court of Nazareth because of accusations of inciting to violence and support for terrorist organisations. She was put under house arrest for nearly three years and was set free in October 2018. The conviction of Tatour is mostly linked to a video in which she recites one of her poems titled 'Qawim ya sha'abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them). PEN International has supported Dareen Tatour from the beginning of her trial and will continue to do so. Oxfam Novib underlines with this prize the growing repression of critical voices in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, by law (for example electronic crimes law) as well as direct intimidation.
A famous Latin American writer and poet, Gioconda Belli is an influential opponent of the current Nicaraguan government. In this context she has been accused of terroristic activities. Belli is the director of PEN Nicaragua and as such plays an important role in the fight for freedom of expression. Even more so in the light of the drastic deteriorisation of the climate for freedom of expression and human rights in general in the country. Gioconda and several other members of the Centre were accused in May 2018 of a 'terroristic conspiracy' in what according to PEN is an attempt to discredit and intimidate them. In Nicaragua, 322 people were killed in social protests that started in April 2018. At least 400 people were imprisoned or have disappeared after the adoption of a controversial antiterroristic law in August 2018.
Opening Night Winternachten festival 2019
The Opening NIght of the Winternachten festival is dedicated to freedom of expression, featuring poetry, music, the Free the Word! speech, and the Oxfam Novib PEN Awards ceremony. After a word of welcome by Winternachten director Ton van de Langkruis, the festival will be opened by Robert van Asten, The Hague elderman of Mobility, Culture and Strategy.
Radna Fabias, winner of the 2018 C. Buddingh Prize starts the night off with a reading from her collection Habitus. Then the Mexican-American writer Jennifer Clement, chair of PEN International, delivers a statement about freedom of expression. After that, Canadian writer Madeleine Thien delivers the Free the Word! speech. Authors who currently risk their freedom and lives to seek out and publish the truth will be honoured during the prestigious Oxfam Novib PEN Awards ceremony. Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes will hand over the prizes. Afterwards, the winners will discuss their work and experiences with writer and journalist Hassnae Bouazza and Dutch national news presenter Eelco Bosch van Rosenthal. They will also read from their own poetry or prose, or others' work. English spoken. The Opening Night programme is framed with musical performances by singer-songwriter Raj Mohan and hosted by Hassnae Bouazza.
About Oxfam Novib PEN Award
The Oxfam Novib PEN Award is a collaboration between Oxfam Novib and the international writers' association PEN (Poets, editors, essayists, novelists). PEN supports prosecuted writers. Yearly, several awards are handed out and the winners come to The Netherlands to receive their awards. In previous years, the Oxfam Novib PEN Award was given to, among others, Venezualan journalist Milagros Soccoro, the Ethiopan blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega, the Indian research journalist Malini Subramaniam, poet Ashraf Fayadh (Saudi-Arabia), writer Omar Hazek (Egypt), and journalist, writer and filmmaker Can Dundar (Turkey). The Hague, international city of peace, justice and security is a logical place to hand over the Award.