Scotland: Amnesty International imprisoned writers series launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

“It is one of the shortest of the events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, yet it’s probably the most important.” (Rosemary Goring, Herald Magazine)

This weekend saw the start of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and at the same time, the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series.

The Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series holds an event each day of the Book Festival and brings together an array of celebrated writers, playwrights and poets to read the writings of imprisoned writers from around the world.

Each day is themed and covers issues as diverse as Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s Voices, Iranian Blogs, Writings of War and African Writers. This year, Amnesty is joined by an esteemed group of writers including Andrew Motion, Sir Arnold Wesker, Isla Dewar and Iain Banks.

Some of the writers taking part in this year’s Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series said:

Author Isla Dewar said:

“Why do I do it? Well, I always feel privileged to be asked. I believe in voices, and believe that voices have a right to be heard whatever they say.

“I do not think they should be silenced or censored. I do not think anyone, anywhere should be imprisoned and tortured because of their opinions, because of the poetry or prose they write. So I add my small voice to many other voices in the hope that the noise will become loud enough to be heard and prison doors thrown open, and silenced voices sing out loud"

Author and founder of publisher Virago, Carmen Callil said:

"It is not only writers who are persecuted, imprisoned, or denied their human rights. We live in a democracy, but what does that word mean any more? It means that I voted for a government that went to war in Iraq, that supports the incomprehensible, not to say demented, foreign policy of the USA, that now uses bumbling words to accept the immoral murder of civilians in the Lebanon under the mindless application of the word "terrorist". For "Terrorist", read "Jew", "Black", "Coloured", "homosexual", "asylum seeker" - there are hundreds of word-labels used to cover evil deeds. It used to be only dictatorships that imprisoned writers and denied us freedom of speech.

“Today, living in western democracies, we are silenced in other ways. About Iraq and the Lebanon, as a subject of the British government, I can do nothing. Speaking up for Amnesty International's Imprisoned Writers makes me feel that at least I am doing something - for writers and for words. Words that are not cant, but words used well, with honour."

Playwright Sir Arnold Wesker said:

“I'm eager to take part in the Amnesty Imprisoned Writers series because I imagine how heart-warming it would be if I were imprisoned and isolated from a sense that anyone cares to know that someone does indeed care”

The Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series runs daily at 5.30pm at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte’s Square, Edinburgh. Events are free but ticketed, tickets available from the morning of the event.

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