Did you know that International PEN is the world’s oldest human rights organization?
I did not, until today.
Turns out, this worldwide association of writers was founded in London, England, in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere.
PEN originally stood for “Poets, Essayists and Novelists” (did not know that either), but now includes writers of any form of literature, including journalists and historians.
The organization fights for freedom of expression and acts as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes killed for their views.
I dug up this info because today is my birthday and I wanted to do a not-so-random act of kindness on this auspicious occasion. Something I had to think about.
I thought of PEN, for some reason, and the good work they do. And I found out that you could write a letter to try to help free a writer who’d been thrown in jail for expressing their opinion. Powerful stuff.
So I sat down and wrote one on behalf of Maung Thura, 47, (stage name Zargana) a leading political satirist and poet in his native Myanmar (Burma). He was arrested in June 2008 after leading a private relief effort to deliver aid to victims of Cyclone Nargis and sentenced to 35 years in jail.
Reason? Primarily for publicly criticizing the government for being slow-pokes in helping the cyclone victims. That’s it.
Here’s the address, if you care to drop the Myanmar government a line:
Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defence,
Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar
Salutation: Dear General
Suggested body of letter: I demand the immediate and unconditional release of Maung Thura (Zargana), and of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.
Probably shouldn’t sign it with a smiley face….
P.S. Here is a beautiful song for the day. Enjoy!