Tuesday, 7 October 2014

80th PEN International Congress in Bishkek - a short report

I'm posting here the notes I wrote day by day during the Congress and published daily on the page PEN International on Facebook.

In this moment I don't have the time to translate them into Italian, but I will write an article in Italian I will post in the moment it will be published.

Anyway, it is important to have on the blog the history of what happened in Bishkek.

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Arrived at Manas Airport (aka as Frunze) at 08.55 without inconvenient, my luggage followed me, the pick-up was as agreed, the hotel is ok.

When everything was in order it was time for a walk in the city (it’s my first visit to Bishkek).
Light lunch at the hotel (a young waiter was enthusiast that I had ordered 100 grams of vodka to accompany the salmon, my survival Russian is maybe better than I suppose) and a couple of hours sleep, so that in the afternoon I could make my photographic safari in the Centre of the town (that is larger than I supposed).

Dinner with Marian, Jarkko and Larry chatting about amenities. Work officially starts on Sunday, but we have to prepare for it. Anyway, tomorrow I would like to dedicate some time to the Museums. In order to post some pics I have to go back home, I cannot download them with this PC.

Saturday, September 27 2014

When I woke up this morning it was not an early rise, to say the truth... the day was good, but in the late afternoon it rained a bit.

In the morning some of us visited the bazaar (not the big one which is outside Bishkek) and then I visited the Historical Museum, an amazing place divided between the recent history (I mean the Soviet era) and the history of Kyrgizstan from the Paleolithic. Then I took a long stroll around the Centre of the city an his gardens, looking for everything that escaped me in the first round. Almost 400 pics in two days time... you know what I mean.
Had lunch alone in a very local place, no alcohol so I had Ajran. In this Muslim town I have not seen a mosque nor a minaret in the centre, by the way.

In the late afternoon I met with Jarkko, Liz and Emmanuel and chatted about PEN. After dinner we met in the Hotel’s bat for an informal meeting with John, Takeaki and Carles coming back from their mission in Kazakhstan.

Tomorrow the  Board meets at 9.00 and we will be picked up at 8.30. Work is starting... that’s what we are here for, finally.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cloudy and sunny... Bishkek weather, but not cold.
A short report for a long meeting of the Board with a quite heavy Agenda, organizing and preparing the General Assembly, listening to reports about recent activity, about the general situation, about many topics I cannot tell you about. Business as usual, one would say.
Today we started seeing many familiar faces, tomorrow we will meet early and we will greet a lot of friends. A lot of friends is not exaggerated: we are supposed to be about 170...
At 19.30 I will call it a day. Cпокойной ночи, have a good night, buonanotte.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Mostly sunny. 
This morning all the Committees held their meetings. I was present mostly at the Writers for Peace Committee, where we had to deal with a long Agenda. Tone Peršak reported about the activity between Reykjavik and Bishkek, then we took in consideration a possible “in session” resolution about the conflict Israel-Palestine making an appeal to writers and poets of both parties to remember them that there is no right than the right to peace. The Committee also approved a letter to be sent to the UN in order to establish peace as one of the universal human rights.Many other issues were discussed.
I took a time to be present to the Translation & Literary Rights, that elected as new Chairman Simona Škrabec (PEN català) with 22 votes against 9 for Kaiser Özhun (PEN Uyghur) and 2 (in absentia) for Xhevat Llhosi (Albanian PEN).
In the afternoon I had to attend a meeting with an external consultant and could not attend the meetings of WiPC and WWC.
Afterwards there was a panel discussion with Dunja Mijatovic of OSCE, Masha Gessin, Margie  Orford and Jo Glanville about Criminal Defamation.
In the evening the Welcome Dinner took place at the Supara, a huge restaurant in Chuncurchak J. Five buses, dinner and a nice program of songs and dances. During the dinner there was an interesting discussion between Andrei Kurkov and Masha Gessen led by a Finnish journalist.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
How could be the weather during the day of the start of the General Assembly ? Gorgeous, obviously…
The formal Assembly started with a short speech of the President about the specific conditions of this Congress. After the In Memoriam or deceased members and a short introduction of the New Centres that will be presented tomorrow, the First Empty Chair of this Congress was introduced.
It is dedicated to Azimjon Askarov, the ethnic Uzbek journalist who is a case of freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan, and his wife Hadicha Askarova spoke before the Assembly.

The official procedures were quickly dispatched, and an Open Session started, during which more than twenty interventions were made about different issues, that gave to everybody food for thought.

Then we entered an official phase in which the Reports of the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer had to be presented to the General Meeting with the one of the Executive Director and of the Board. These were followed by the Reports of the Chairs of WiPC, T&LRC, WfPC and WWC. So ended the first part of the General Meeting for today.

Tomorrow we will have to deal with the elections of two Members of the Board and the Approval of the Chair of T&LRC, as well as with new Centres and we will begin to examine Resolutions.

After a quick lunch – a veeeery quick one – we were transported to the Manas Turkish – Kyrgyz University of Bishkek where a Literary Forum about Cinghiz Ajtmatov was held under the attentive eyes of Manas – the Kyrgyz national hero – and Mustafà Kemal Pacha, alias Atatürk.
A dinner at the University followed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cloudy and rainy, no other words.

The Empty Chair of today is Vladimir Kozlov, a Kazakh writer. We left many signatures on his picture so that he could see that we are thinking about him.

The finalists of the New Voices Award are Kasim Bazil (Kyrgyzstan), Marina Babanskaya (Russia) and Amalia Cernat (Romania). The winner will be announced during the Cultural Evening of today.

The president thanked Silvestre Clancier and  Lyan Yang, who are leaving the Board.

The candidates to the two places on the Board were presented as follows:
1. Vladislav Bajac (Serbian PEN, absent) by Vladimir Kopici
2. Teresa Cadete (Portuguese PEN)  by Franca Tiberto
3. Vladimir Kartsev (Kazakh PEN) by Bigeldin Gabdullin
4.Lucina Kathmann (San Miguel de Allende PEN)  by Rose Mary Espinosa
5. Margie Orford (South Africa PEN) by Alicia Quiñones

Elections took place immediately after. There were 2 proxies and a number of postal ballots.

The choice of Simona Škrabec as Chair of T&LRC was agreed by the General Assembly.

The Search Committee gave the results of the elections:
1. Bajac 9
2. Cadete 38
3. Kartsev 15
4. Kathmann 18
5. Orford 51

Teresa Cadete and Margie Orford are elected Members of the Board.

A discussion about freedom of expression and LGBTI followed, led by Marian Botsford-Fraser with Suynat Sultanalieva, Masha Gessen and Juliet Jacques.

Proposed New Centres were presented:
1. Honduras by Olivia Kenia
2. Wales Cymru by Sally Baker Jones
3. Eritrea by Dessale Bereket
4. Liberia (absent) by Mike Butscher (video)

All New Centres were accepted unanimously.
A centre was declared dormant.

After another quick lunch I had to take the floor to present an Amending resolution concerning the scattered election of the three Officers of PEN International: the resolution was approved.

Many resolutions were approved afterwards on different issues: others are to be examined tomorrow.

After the conclusion of the formal part of the General Meeting for today there were Workshops about Fundraising and Campaigning: I was asked to intervene in the latter, relating about 4 years of managing this Group, that was not designed for campaigning but has been an interesting experiment about spreading out PEN values while functioning as a place in which members meet.

Then we went to the International Atatürk Alatoo University where after a Cultural Evening in which

Marina Babanskaya (Russia) was declared winner of the New Voices Award. Very nice music, dinner very late, due to a visit of the International President to the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another rainy day.

Introduction of Empty Chair of today, Ilham Tohti, an Uighur writer in China.
Many resolutions were approved, following yesterdays’ procedures. The only controversial one was the resolution presented by the Writers for Peace Committee about Israel and Gaza, which was approved by a large majority with some contraries and some abstentions.

A specific point in the Agenda was dedicated to the copyright issue proposed by the Lawyers Committee.

After some discussions about the 4 years plan and the fundraising policies, we heard Einar Karason (Icelandic PEN) report about the last Congress in Reykjavik, and Emile Martin about the next Congress in Québec (12/16 October 2015)  and José Muratti Toro about the proposal of a Congress in Puerto Rico in 2016.
Cathy McCann introduced the concept of the Writers in Exile (ICORN and PEN Emergency Fund)
During that activities the International President gave a Press Conference about the Congress.

After a transfer to the National Art Museum there was a dinner and a Cultural Program, with acknowledgments for everyone involved in the Congress.

Tomorrow and on Saturday the members of the Board will meet for a retreat at the Ashu Guest House.

On Sunday I will fly home.

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