May 12, International Day of Readings for Egyptian Novelist Ahmed Naji


Poster by Evgeniag Klimova. Image: Omar Mostafa.
Poster by Evgeniag Klimova. Image: Omar Mostafa.

In conjunction with PEN International, writers and readers around the world will be holding readings on 12 May 2016 in support of jailed Egyptian novelist Ahmed Naji, winner of the 2016 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. The readings aim to show solidarity with Ahmed and to raise awareness about his current situation and that of writers and journalists across Egypt.

For a list of readings visit the “World for Ahmed Naji” website.

Thirty-year-old Ahmed Naji has written two novels: Rogers (2007) and Istikhdam al-Hayah (Using Life, 2014). The second, Using Life, was excerpted in Akhbar al-Adab magazine in 2014. The content of this excerpt was deemed by a public prosecutor to have “violated public modesty.” In January 2016, a court ruling went against the state, but after an appeal by the prosecution, the case returned to court in February. On 20 February, Ahmed was given the maximum possible sentence of two years in prison.

Read the excerpt in English translation.

Rights groups inside and outside Egypt have strongly condemned the sentence. This week, more than a hundred prominent world writers and artists have signed a letter, sent by PEN America, to Egypt’s president, urging Ahmed’s release. These writers include including Margaret Atwood, J.M. Coetzee, and Orhan Pamuk. This is in addition to the more than 500 Egyptian writers and artists who have signed a statement in solidarity with Ahmed, criticizing the government’s “multi-armed attack on a number of writers and journalists because of their opinions.”

The worldwide reading seeks to raise and maintain awareness of Ahmed’s case as Egyptian writers, cartoonists, and other creatives continue to face stark dangers.

CONTACT: M Lynx Qualey (mlynxqualey – at – or @arablit.