Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced earlier this week that nominations are now open for the 2012 Hellman-Hammett grants.

The grants, administered by HRW, are for writers who have suffered persecution because of their work (and are in financial need).

What sort of persecution? Well:

Past Hellman-Hammett awardees have been persecuted and silenced by means of military and presidential decrees, trumped-up criminal charges, and libel and sedition laws. They have been harassed, assaulted, arbitrarily detained, unfairly indicted, and tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those directly targeted, many others have been forced to practice self-censorship.

In 2011, there were two Arab grant-ees (of 41): Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam and Sudanese novelist Hisham Adam. In the past several years, other Arabs—including Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas and Syrian-Kurdish novelist Maha Hassan—have won the Hellman-Hammett grants, which can be up to a maximum of $10,000.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about these sorts of awards (who is most deservingly persecuted? are decisions made based on quality of writing or how challenging it is? what constitutes a proper challenge? to whom?). Although of course, yes, persecuted writers deserve global support.

If you’d like to nominate, the form is available at http://www.hrw.org/hhgrants/nominations. Nominations should be submitted via email by December 10, 2011.