Monday 24 March 2008

On freedom to write

I now write a blog at least five days a week – three days here and two at Writelink. In between I write articles for sale at Constant Content, send queries out to editors about other articles and write and submit what they seem to want. I also sometimes find I am thinking about what to write in my blogs at various times when I’m doing other things.

So sometimes I open a new document knowing exactly what I’m going to write about. Other times, like today, it’s that proverbial blank screen, and I don’t have a clue what to fill it with. But at least I can write more or less what I like without worrying about repercussions.

Sometimes I get inspiration from adverts in my local newspaper. The piece I wrote about English PEN was one of those. I’d not heard of it before I read about one of their events in my area. I was intrigued and inspired to find out more about it. I actually got a comment on that from The Director of English PEN. Thank you Jonathan, if you are reading this.

This morning I picked up issue 35 of Mslexia magazine. Coincidentally, its theme was ‘behind the Iran curtain’ and the main article about this discussed the problems of authors in that country, and women in particular. Succeeding governmental regimes, especially that of the current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seem bent on silencing or punishing anyone who writes anything they consider undesirable. Every manuscript has to be vetted by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance before it can be printed, and reasons for turning them down often seem completely arbitrary.

Fearful of censorship and the punishments of arrest, imprisonment, torture, ultimately even death, the lucky ones find asylum elsewhere, often in the US. Others resort to anonymous blogs but even this is proving not to be safe. The first imprisonment of a blogger anywhere in the world happened there, to Sina Motallebi in 2003.

Reading about those free to work in America reminds me of Afghan author, Khaled Hosseini, whose heart-wrenching novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, about his birth country, shocked me and most of the western world into greater awareness.

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