Writers’ Courage Day recognises imprisoned colleagues

The moving and powerful stories of three brave writers, currently imprisoned in Uganda, Iran, and Egypt, were highlighted during Sunday’s Courage Day event.

Hosted by Dunedin Public Library on November 15, International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Courage Day event was a collaboration between the local branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors, City Library, and the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature team.

Event organisers Mira Harrison and Carolyn McCurdie were joined by fellow writers in highlighting the plight of Ugandan novelist and journalist Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, Iranian poet and academic Sedigheh Vasmaghi, and Egyptian Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein — all of whom are imprisoned because of their work.

As is traditional, the event included a symbolic "empty chair" in honour of absent colleagues, as writers Sophia Wilson, Diane Brown, Philip Temple, Rachel Ovens, Mike Hamblyn, Harrison, and McCurdie gave readings on the subject of freedom.

McCurdie said the Dunedin Courage Day event was held alongside international commemorations by the global writer’s organisation International PEN.

These aim to raise awareness of the persecution, imprisonment, and sometimes murder of writers, because of what they write.

"On Sunday it was especially clear just how lucky we are," McCurdie said.

A display telling the stories of Rukirabashaija, Vasmaghi and Hussein continues this week on the "cube" at Dunedin City Library.

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