Iranian writer, journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi will be honored at this week’s PEN America Literary Gala. Mohammadi, currently jailed for “spreading propaganda”, will receive the 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
“Narges Mohammadi inspires amazement around the world for her unwavering courage and her resistance to the Iranian government’s determined campaign to silence her”said PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel in a statement released Monday. “The sacrifices that she and her family have made are heartbreaking. She is a beacon for free expression in one of the toughest places in the world for writers, journalists and artists.”
Mohammadi’s husband, journalist and activist Taghi Rahmani, will accept the award on her behalf. PEN’s gala will take place Thursday night at the American Museum of Natural History, with other honorees including “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, winner of the PEN/Audible Literary Service Award.
The PEN/Barbey Award is given to writers persecuted for their work. Previous recipients include Ukrainian freelance journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko and Chinese activist Xu Zhiyong.
Mohammadi, 51, has a long record of imprisonment and harsh punishments, including torture and solitary confinement. In 2020, she was released after serving 8 1/2 years on charges ranging from planning crimes against Iran to forming an illegal organization. At one point, Mohammadi was vice president of the banned Center for Human Rights Defenders.
In early May, she was one of three jailed Iranian journalists to receive the United Nations World Press Freedom Award.
The United Nations Award
The United Nations announced in early May that its top prize for press freedom was awarded to three imprisoned Iranian journalists “for their commitment to truth and accountability.”
Mohammadi, who has worked for many years as a journalist and is one of Iran’s most prominent activists, shared the award with Niloufar Hamedi, who broke the news that 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died last September while in detention for the morality cop for wearing her scarf too loose, and Elaheh Mohammadi, who wrote about her funeral.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Press Freedom Award is named after Guillermo Cano, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated outside the offices of his newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá on 17 December 1986. UNESCO has awarded the prize to coincide with World Press Freedom Day on May 3 since 1997.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay announced the winners at a ceremony in New York, saying: “Now more than ever, it is important to pay tribute to all the women journalists who are prevented from doing their jobs and who face threats and attacks on your personal security. .”
(with information from AP)
Iran freed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi after more than eight years in prison