Not the ‘Day of the Imprisoned Writer’

Yesterday was PEN‘s Day of the Imprisoned Writer,” and they recognized five imprisoned writers. Today we remember five others:

Although PEN advocates for many imprisoned writers, they highlighted the life and work of five: Enoh MeyomesseGao YuMahvash SabetNelson 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)

1520710_623138947742655_1724968624_nOmar 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.

Translation of one of Hazek’s Poems, ‘As If I Love You’

A Speech for the Signing Ceremony of My Novel ‘I Don’t Love This City’

‘World Cup’ Letter from Prison

‘If I Die, Don’t Bury Me’

19-Year-Old Islam’s Story

Mohamed al-Ajami (Qatar)

alajamiMohamed Al-Ajami was arrested in November 2011 after the YouTube publication of a poem of his that supported Arab uprisings and criticized regional governments.

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.

Qatar Upholds 15-year Sentence for Poet Muhammad al-Ajami

Tal al-Mallouhi (Syria)

download (1)Tal, a poet and blogger, first appeared before Syrian State Security Court in November 2010.

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.

Where is Tal Al-Mallouhi: Although pardoned by the court, Tal is still not free

You Will Remain an Example,” trans. Ghias al-Jundi

Zaki Cordillo (Syria)

RAN-2013-1-150x150It 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)

diaaThe 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.

PEN postcards for missing Syrian poets


  1. Thanks for this post.

    I don’t know what else the world has to bear to be free.

  2. Silenced Writers and Journalists, let us not forget them

    We are all aware of the danger that impunity for crimes against writers and journalists poses for freedom, democracy and peace. In Mexico, this November, every day is the Day of the Dead. The recent tragedy of the missing students reminds us that there and elsewhere in the world, our writers and journalists become hostages.
    Let us recall that November 15 is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer and November 23, the Day against Impunity. Our writers and journalists, bearers of dreams and adventures, witnesses of human realities, were assaulted, tortured, imprisoned, reported missing or forced into exile because of their writings or words. The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International has recorded hundreds of cases of attacks during the last 12 months. Hundreds of prisoners are rotting in labour camps. Ultimate form of censorship: kill the author whose words bother. More than thirty murders were revealed :

    Désiré OUÉE (Ivory Coast), Adel Mohsen HUSSEIN, Kawa Ahmed GERMYANI et Samira Saleh AL-NAIMI (Iraq), Miguel Ángel GUZMÁN GARDUÑO, Jorge TORRES PALACIOS, Octavio ROJAS HERNÁNDEZ, Abdul Rasool KHATTAK, Irshad MASTOI, Víctor PÉREZ PÉREZ, Jesús Antonio GAMBOA URÍAS et María del Rosario FUENTES RUBIO (Mexico), Abrar TANOLI, Abdul Rasool KHATTAK, Irshad MASTOI et Nadeem HYDER (Pakistan), Rubylita GARCIA (Philippines), Sai REDDY (India), Suon CHAN 2(Cambodia), Kamol DUANGPHASUK (Thaïland), Timur KUASHEV (Russia), Vyacheslav VEREMYI (Ukraine), Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan AWUOL (South Soudan), Hashem SHAABANI (Iran), Mo’az AL-KHALED (Syria), Sardar AHMAD et Palwasha Tokhi MERANZAI (Afghanistan), Mayada ASHRAF (Egypt), Pablo MEDINA VELÁZQUEZ (Paraguay), Aung Kyaw NAING (Burma), Meftah BOUZID (Libya), Pedro PALM (Brazil).
    Celebrating the events of November, PEN International focused its attention on five situations which are representative of repression without borders: Gao Yu, a journalist and professor, reported missing on April 23, 2014 (China), Azimjon ASKAROV, Uzbek a journalist, life imprisonment in June 2010 (Kyrgyzstan), Mahvash Sabet, a poet and teacher, 20 years in prison in June 2010 (Iran), Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse, a poet, 7 years in prison in December 2012 (Cameroon) and Nelson AGUILERA, a writer and teacher, 30 months in prison in November 2014 (Paraguay).
    Last October, PEN International Congress in Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation of freedom of expression and opinion in Russia, Ukraine, Cuba, Mexico, China, Tibet, Xinjiang, Ethiopia, Iran, Turkey, Honduras, Syria, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa, the United States, Azerbaijan, Eritrea and Vietnam.
    In the last country, several writers, journalists, bloggers, lawyers and human rights defenders were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials. The majority of these prisoners are in poor health. Cases we find of particular concern include, among others:
    1-• Ho Thi Bich Khuong (f), blogger, human rights defender, and author of a memoir in prison, satirical poems and online articles. Interviewed by foreign radio, she denounced the abuse of power against poor women peasants. She was arrested in December 2010 and sentenced in December 2011 to five years in prison and three years in probationary detention. Previously served two prison sentences in 2005 and 2007. She had been violently attacked and subjected to brief arrests. She was tortured in prison, badly beaten by common law detainees. Other aggressors broke her left arm during pre-trial detention. Held in solitary confinement, she is also in very poor health;
    2-• Ta Phong Tan (f), prolific blogger, jurist, member of the banned Free Journalist Club. Arrested in September 2011 and sentenced in September 2012 to 10 years in prison and three years in probationary detention. She is the author of over 700 articles about corruption, abuse of power, arbitrary land confiscations and child mistreatment. Her blog’s writings have been the most read in many mainstream media and foreign radios services. Since 2008, she has been brutally harassed and briefly detained many times. On 30 July 2012, her mother died after setting herself on fire to protest her daughter’s arbitrary detention. She has reportedly been ill-treated in the camp and is in very poor health. Furthermore, Hanoi regime uses unscrupulously imprisoned writers and journalists as bargaining chips. Against signing an eventual contract especially for it to buy weapons of war hitherto prohibited. It releases sick prisoners of conscience, in dribs and drabs and forced into exile abroad immediately. Their sentences were suspended but not canceled.

    Let us express our indignation and write our solidarity with writers and information professionals against the shadow of threat, complicity and connivance. Let us raise our voice, even it is broken, to light a candle, so fragile it is, against the iceberg-cold night of indifference, silence and oblivion.

    Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt*
    Vice president of Suisse Romand Centre of PEN International
    (Writers in Prison Committee/WIPC/CODEP)

    * (Associated Vietnamese Writers in Exile Centre)

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