Author Ilija Trojanov
Author Ilija Trojanov

NEW YORK CITY |  When writers and journalists are targets of government repression, you know you have a problem – a big problem – on your hands. And that is precisely the case here in the U.S.

“It is more than ironic that an author who for years has been speaking out about the dangers of surveillance and the secret state within the state should be denied entry in the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’ ” states Bulgarian-German writer Ilija Trojanov, following the writer’s being denied entry into the US from his flight at the airport in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.

Titled “Revenge for My Protest?” Trojanov continues:

No more than a minor, individual case, to be sure: but it’s indicative of the consequences of a disastrous development and it reveals the naïveté of the attitude of many citizens who comfort themselves with the mantra, “But it’s got nothing to do with me.” That might still be the case, but the net is tightening. For these citizens the secret services are still just a rumor, however in the not so distant future the knock on the door will be very real indeed.

Read the entire essay here.

This past October, PEN American Center issued a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers urging them to review the decision to deny Bulgarian-German writer Ilija Trojanov entry to the United States on Monday, September 30.

PEN said this most recent act of ideological exclusion calls to mind our country’s checkered history of barring writers whose political views it disfavors, at a time when the need to model tolerance for dissent is stronger than ever.

According to reports, Ilija Trojanov was checking in for an American Airlines flight from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, to Miami, for a connection to Denver, Colorado, when one of the airline personnel told him that due to “Border Crossing Security” he was required to inform American authorities of his presence at the airport. He was then refused entry on the flight without further explanation and told he had to fly back to Germany.

Trojanov was reportedly denied a U.S. visa earlier this year, but on a second attempt and with the support of an American university he was finally granted a visa that would have allowed him to attend a conference of the German Studies association in Denver; he has also been invited by the Goethe Institute to participate in a New Literature from Europe festival in New York in November.

A member of the German PEN Center, Ilija Trojanov was born in Bulgaria in 1965 but in 1971 fled the country with his parents via Yugoslavia and Italy, and obtained political asylum in Germany. He is the author of more than 20 books, including Angriff auf die Freiheit (Attack on Freedom), a polemic on surveillance that he co-wrote with fellow writer Juli Zeh and published in 2009. In July, he and Zeh penned an open letter calling on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to respond to the NSA’s surveillance program.

Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center, said:

Barring Mr. Trojanov, an outspoken critic of America’s controversial surveillance powers, from attending an academic conference in the United States will hardly calm the anxiety our colleagues around the world are feeling about America’s electronic spying. 

Rather, it resurrects memories of a time when the United States routinely barred international writers and scholars who criticized or challenged U.S. policies—at precisely the moment when we should be demonstrating a willingness to engage in full and open debate. We urge the government to quickly review Ilija Trojanov’s case and to allow him to complete his planned travel to the United States.

To read the full text of PEN’s letter, please visit http://www.pen.org/letter/pen-letter-protesting-exclusion-ilija-trojanov-us.

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