On Thursday 23rd November, MSPs held a debate to mark The Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2017.
Organised by PEN International, the day serves to commemorate writers around the world who have been imprisoned, threatened or attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression – and to encourage people to take action.
Each year PEN highlights the cases of five persecuted writers that are emblematic of the persecution and threats faced by writers and journalists across the world.
One of this year’s cases is that of the Kurdish poet and artist, Zehra Dogan, who is currently imprisoned in Turkey.
As Co-Convenor of Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Kurdistan, and as someone with a long-standing interest in Kurdistan, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, Ruth Maguire, used her speech to highlight her story in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament – and to inspire more people to take action to help her.
Earlier this week, Ruth wrote to Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım, and Turkish Justice Minister, Abdülhamit Gül, urging the immediate and unconditional release of the Kurdish artist and journalist, Zehra Doğan.
Ruth also posted a personal message of support to Zehra herself, that will she receive in prison.
Speaking in the debate, Ruth said:
“This is a time to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a society where that freedom is respected, cherished, and defended by all parties and by each of our Parliaments.
It is also time to remember that we should never take this for granted – that we must always be vigilant of any attempts to dilute this fundamental right.
Most importantly, though, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer is a time to reflect on those who do not yet even have that most basic human right of freedom of expression.
Those who are still struggling and fighting for it.
Those who are are suffering unjust imprisonment, persecution and violence – for the simple of act of expressing their thoughts in writing.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey has earned an accolade which holds no glory – it is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.
Zehra is one of them.
She is in prison primarily because of a painting that she drew and a news report that she wrote.
The actions of the Turkish authorities are condemnable and disgraceful.
Zehra is an inspirational and highly skilled painter and journalist – not a criminal – and I add my voice to the global calls for her immediate and unconditional release.”