Freedom from Torture - Freedom from Torture hosts literary event 'Freedom: Not just another word'

Freedom from Torture hosts literary event 'Freedom: Not just another word'

Authors, poets, survivors and supporters gathered in London for charity Freedom from Torture’s biennial literary auction. The theme this year was ‘freedom’ – a timely subject to explore in the political and social landscape of 2018.

Booker Prize-winner Julian Barnes, and bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, hosted the evening and treated 150 guests to readings in the ornate library room of London’s IET. In the midst of canapés and wine, fierce bidding ensued. Popular lots included a chance to be named after a character in the upcoming works of Margaret Atwood, Lee Child and Marian Keyes.

Among the long list of prizes, the highlights were an original film script donated by Helen Mirren, an original illustration by Quentin Blake, and afternoon tea with Maggie O’Farrell.

For the audience, the real stars of the show were prize-winning Turkish author Burhan Sönmez, Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Kamila Shamsie, as well as Doka and Haydeh who are members of the torture survivor writing group called Write to Life.

Sönmez, a human rights lawyer in Turkey, was treated by Freedom from Torture twenty years ago after fleeing the country during the height of the Kurdish civil war. Now the author of four novels, Sönmez has won prizes for his literature, including the 2017 Vaclav Havel Award and 2018 EBRD Award.

Speaking of the journey that his experience of torture had taken him on, Sönmez said:

I died as a man of law, but for the sake of life and love, I was reborn as a man of literature. The question I ask you and myself is – which is more dangerous to tyrants?

Doka, a survivor of torture, performed a moving poem where he imagined himself as a kite, both free and tethered to the ground. Kamila Shamsie, the British-Pakistani author of Home Fire, read a poem in Urdu and then translated to English. She recited:

Though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed in rooms where lovers are destined to meet, they cannot snuff out the moon.

Throughout the evening, Canadian poet and therapist Ronna Bloom, gave guests a personalised poetry prescription, and Afghan torture survivor Ahmadzia exhibited a kite display made in a workshop with young people, inspired by author Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner.

The evening raised over £50,000 – a lifeline for survivors of torture recovering from trauma and rebuilding their lives in the UK.

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