PEN Case (1996): Taslima Nasrin – Bangladesh, Exiled
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Taslima Nasrin was born in East Pakistan (now known as Bangladesh) in August 1962 and graduated with a medical degree in 1984. Her Hunger in the Roots collection of poetry was published in 1989 and was followed by the book Banished Without & Within in 1989.
In 1993 Nasrin’s work Lajje (Shame) was published, provoking the previously unknown group called ‘Soldiers of Islam’ to call for her execution. The book features a Hindu family that is attacked by Muslims. Already under attack, in May 1994, her situation became extreme when an interview was published in an Indian newspaper in which she was quoted as calling for revision of the Koran. This led to mass protests on the streets of Dhaka, which at their height are said to have numbered 300,000 people. In August 1994 she was officially charged with ‘making inflammatory statements’ for this article and she went into hiding before going into exile in Sweden and France The trial against her drags on to this day.
In 1998 Nasrin returned briefly to Bangladesh where she faced renewed threats and was forced to leave the country again. In 2004 she settled in Kolkata, India. However, the threats continued; in March 2007 a reward was offered by an Indian extremist group for her beheading.
She then moved to New Delhi but in March 2008 was forced to leave India after renewed threats. She has published numerous novels, essays, poetry and memoir collections, many of which have attracted controversy for their candid descriptions of her private life. Some of her work is banned in Bangladesh.
If you tell the truth, people get angry,
don’t tell the truth anymore, Taslima
This time is not the time of Gallelio.
This is twenty first century,
but society would outcast you if you tell the truth,
Nations would force you to leave their land,
The State would put you in prison,
Don’t tell the truth, .
Say the sun is revolving around the earth,
Say the moon has its own light, like the sun.
Say the mountains are nailed to the earth, so that the earth
does not fall off the empty space.
Claim the women are made out of the ribs of men,
Insist one neck-bone of women is crooked,
Vouch all men and women would suddenly wake up from their graves
and rise from the ashes in their youthful splendor,
And that from here, they would go to heaven or hell for eternity
Just lie Taslima.
Say stars, planets and satellites, universe and
Gravity are thunderous lies. Also say, men never landed on moon. Simply lie.
If you lie, you would no more be in exile.
You would have a country of your own, you would get friends.
Will be free from your chains, you will see light and the sky.
Nobody will throw you inside the dark, inhuman, dungeon of death,
So never tell the truth, Taslima,
Translated ‘by Carolyn Wright and others’ available at official website (http://taslimanasrin.com/index2.html), but need to get permission.
Taslima Nasrin’s web site: https://www.taslimanasrin.com/
BBC profile 2007: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7108880.stm Wikipedia on Taslima Nasrin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taslima_Nasrin