Ronya Othmann Literature Festival Karachi

Press Release February 18, 2024
​​Ronya Othmann uninvited: No to cancellation, yes to conversation – Anytime, Anywhere

​​PEN Berlin strongly criticises the disinvitation of the writer and columnist Ronya Othmann, our former board member, from the Karachi Literature Festival. The disinvitation was preceded by a social media campaign and an open letter with over 400 signatories accusing Othmann of »Zionist and Islamophobic positions«. It is irritating, even disturbing, that the signatories include many writers and intellectuals who would claim freedom of expression at any time.

In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion«, the International PEN Charter states. As PEN, we are convinced that conversation and exchange must remain possible across all political differences«, said PEN Berlin spokesperson Eva Menasse. Every serious debate must include the willingness not only to tolerate positions that are diametrically opposed to one’s own, but to listen to them: »Otherwise every conversation turns into a soliloquy«.

PEN Berlin is fundamentally opposed to disinviting or cancelling authors because of their political positions. This principle also and especially applies in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where positions are becoming increasingly irreconcilable; it applies in Pakistan, in Germany, everywhere.

We very much hope that German cultural institutions such as the Goethe-Institutes will not draw the conclusion from such incidents that they will only present German authors who are not considered »problematic« – in any way – and that they will continue to present the German literary scene abroad in all its aesthetic and political diversity.

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