Today, PEN launches its groundbreaking report on free expression and human rights in China.
SAVE THE DATE! APRIL 25, 6-9PM
FRAGILE STATES Exhibition Fundraiser
freeDimensional in partnership with the Brian Morris Gallery invites you to attend a group exhibition launch and fundraiser, Fragile States, on April 25, from 6-9PM.
Fragile States is an exploration of the physical and psychological experiences of persecution and forced displacement. The artists featured in the exhibition share a common experience of having to leave their country of origin after facing threats, violent assault, imprisonment or torture as a result of using their creative practice to voice the concerns of their communities.
Featured Artists: Owen Maseko (Zimbabwe), Zunar (Malaysia), Kianoush Ramezani (Iran), Chaw Ei Thein (Burma), Kardash Onnig (Armenia), Khaled Barakeh (Syria), Arahmaiani Feisal (Indonesia) and Issa Nyaphaga (Cameroon).
Admission by donation (suggested donation $10 - $20) to freeDimensional. fD supports culture in the service of free expression, justice and equality by protecting critical voices through creative safe haven residency programs, mobilizing critical resources and services and quick-response funding to remove cultural activists from dangerous situations. fD will receive 60% of proceeds from exhibition sales to further regional artist safety initiatives and to support the needs of artists in distress.
Kim Jong-Un’s succession as North Korea’s supreme leader after the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il, in December 2011 had little impact on the country’s dire human rights record.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) systematically violates the rights of its population. The government has ratified four key international human rights treaties and includes rights protections in its constitution, but does not allow organized political opposition, free media, functioning civil society, or religious freedom. Arbitrary arrest, detention, lack of due process, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees remain serious and pervasive problems. North Korea also practices collective punishment for various anti-state offenses, for which it enslaves hundreds of thousands of citizens in prison camps, including children. The government periodically publicly executes citizens for stealing state property, hoarding food, and other “anti-socialist” crimes, and maintains policies that have continually subjected North Koreans to food shortages and famine.
Read more on the famine, executions, torture, and political prisoner camps »
Here is a vignette from March 2013: A 24-year-old gay man named Yhatzine Lafontain is leaving a restaurant late at night with a friend on Roosevelt Avenue and 95th Street in Queens. Both are dressed as women, Mr. Lafontain in a jacket, short dress and heels. Exchanging goodbyes outside, they are approached by a man who tells them they look good.
In Mr. Lafontain’s account, they chatted briefly to avoid seeming rude and the man departed. Within a few minutes, an undercover police officer approached Mr. Lafontain and his friend and arrested them, suspecting them of prostitution. “We were surprised,” Mr. Lafontain told me, “because we had never talked to anyone about sex or money.”
I met Mr. Lafontain last week in Jackson Heights, not far from where his arrest had taken place, at the offices of Make the Road New York, a community-organizing group that works primarily with Latino immigrants. It has tried, along with various anti-violence projects in the city, to call attention to the perverse specifics of stop-and-frisk policing — a practice currently on trial in federal court in Lower Manhattan — as it applies to gay, lesbian and transgender New Yorkers who are Black and Latino. Last fall, the group issued a report on policing in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood with a vibrant gay and transgender community and attendant club scene (and also a prostitution problem), and found in its survey of more than 300 residents that while 28 percent of straight respondents reported having been stopped by the police, 54 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender respondents reported this kind of treatment.
By the way, I changed the title of the article because I felt that the original title (“Arrests by The Fashion Police”) created by the people at the New York Times was mocking the severity of the issues being discussed in the article.
“Both are dressed as women, Mr. Lafontain in a jacket, short dress and heels.” There are so many things wrong with this article, this line being but one example. Glad you changed the title and provided the original.
Five Questions with Patrice Nganang, Cameroonian author, poet, and human rights defender
Author, poet, and professor Patrice Nganang has been one of the foremost advocates on behalf of PEN Honorary Member Enoh Meyomesse, a writer and politician who was sentenced in December 2012 to seven years in prison. (Click here to view an interactive timeline about Enoh Meyomesse or click here to send an e-letter to the government of Cameroon.) We connected with Patrice over email to find out more about his work.
1. Why is the case of Enoh Meyomesse important in Cameroon?
Every case of a human rights violation is important. The principle is simple. In a republic, every citizen is in danger when an innocent person is in prison. As for Enoh, his capture, torture, incarceration, and sentencing are an epitome of how free-thinking citizens are treated in Cameroon today. Enoh Meyomesse was a writer and a presidential candidate who was rounded up on his return from a trip abroad while his house was ransacked at the same time. He was kept in solitary confinement for a month, and then thrown in jail and sentenced to seven years in prison, without any accuser, without anybody testifying against him, without any proof of his wrongdoing, and then sentenced by a military tribunal even though he is a civilian. One has to imagine a country in which such a thing can happen while the president of Cameroon declares in Paris, in front of the international press, that there are no human rights violations in Cameroon, and claims that the country is the freest on earth. Enoh Meyomesse’s case reminds us how rotten the political system is in Cameroon and the cost of a lack of international news about the country, or about French-speaking African countries for that matter, and why people awake only when a country like Mali collapses.