Although PEN advocates for many imprisoned writers, they highlighted the life and work of five: Enoh Meyomesse, Gao Yu, Mahvash Sabet, Nelson Aguilera, and Azimjon Askarov. Writers, of course, deserve no more and no less than the rest of humanity. But they are our guild, so we remember and appreciate them.
Omar Hazek (Egypt)
Omar Hazek somehow seems irrepressibly good-spirited, even while serving an unjust sentence. You can find an excerpt of his novel, I Don’t Love This City, trans. Anny Gaul, in Rowayat magazine. Hazek is ostensibly in prison for violating Egypt’s anti-protest law, although his activism at the Biblioteca Alexandrina is also perhaps an exacerbating factor. PEN has also taken up his case.
Omar has written a number of letters from prison, and one of his poems has also been translated.
Mohamed al-Ajami (Qatar)
The case raised against him was ostensibly about a 2010 poem that criticized the emir, although many believe authorities were instead punishing al-Ajami for his “Jasmine Revolution Poem,” which has been translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. According to his lawyer, the poet has spent more than two years in solitary.
Tal al-Mallouhi (Syria)
She was sentenced to five years in prison by the State Security Court in Damascus in February for “revealing information to a foreign country.” The court session was closed, and Al-Mallouhi’s family were banned from attending, although the judge reportedly did not provide any evidence against her.
In October 2013, her name was included in a prisoner exchange agreement, but she was apparently taken from Douma prison to the State Security Department in Damascus. After that, nothing more has been reported about her.
Zaki Cordillo (Syria)
It is surely impossible to mention all the names of Syrian poets, novelists, and writers who have been disappeared in Syria. Poet Derar Soltan, whose work appeared on this site, is missing.
Playwright Zaki Cordillo was apparently arrested in August 2012 along with his son Mihyar, an actor. PEN suggests he was targeted for his writings about Syria. Cordillo has written more than eight plays, including Shade and Light, Captain Caracoz and Alma’ar and has also written dramatic works for children.
Dia’a al-Abdullah (Syria)
The poet and blogger Dia’a al-Abdallah was arrested at his home in February 2012 after writing an open letter titled “As A Syrian Citizen I Announce,” in which, according to PEN, he “demanded that the Syrian President step down in order to prevent further bloodshed.” According to PEN, he was subjected to torture in detention and all his front teeth were broken.
Al-Abdullah is missing.