15th - 30th November 2022
15 November: José Rubén Zamora Marroquín (Guatemala), Narges Mohammadi (Iran), Server Mustafayev (Ukraine), and Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe) are the faces and voices of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2022, PEN International’s annual campaign on behalf of writers who are imprisoned or facing persecution. These four cases are emblematic of the type of threats and attacks writers and journalists around the world are often subjected to, for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Orhan Pamuk once said: “When another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free’’. This is why since 1981, with the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, we have been advocating on behalf of writers who are fierce defenders of free speech and for this, pay the ultimate price. Today, we promote campaigns and spur action for 4 incredible minds whose work has changed the life of many across the world. Let’s set them free. – Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
From 15th to 30th November 2022, the entire PEN movement will call for urgent international action to release and protect José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, Narges Mohammadi, Server Mustafayev, and Tsitsi Dangarembga and ensure that they and their families feel solidarity and support.
PEN Centres, members and supporters worldwide will advocate for these writers, with activities ranging from letters to governments and social media storms, to demonstrations, press conferences and panel discussions. Acclaimed writers will send solidarity letters to their colleagues in prison or under threat.
Please take action with us on the following days:
This year's solidarity letters in support of our imprisoned writers are:
Take action today.
Name: Narges Mohammadi
Occupation: Writer, human rights defender
Narges Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist, human rights defender and Honorary Member of the Danish, Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres. She is the former Vice-President and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), co-winner of the 2013 Oxfam Novib / PEN Award and winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize and the 2009 Alexander Langer Award.
Mohammadi was arrested and arbitrarily imprisoned on several occasions over the past years. She was imprisoned at Evin Prison in May 2015, and in 2016 sentenced to 16 years imprisonment on several counts, including for “taking part in assembly and collusion against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the state”, in relation to her activities at the DHRC.
In February 2020, she was served with further charges including “spreading propaganda against the system” and “assembly and collusion with intent to take action against national security”. The charges stemmed from her role in staging sit-ins, conducting educational classes and “defaming” the governor of Evin prison by accusing him of torturing and assaulting her.
In May 2021, she was handed a new sentence of 30 months in prison and 80 lashes, a few months following her release in October 2020 after serving five and a half years in prison. In November the same year, she was arrested while attending a memorial service for killed protestor Ebrahim Ketabdars in the city of Karaj. Mohammadi spent over two months in solitary confinement, about which she wrote intensively, explaining its toll on prisoners of conscience in Iran and labelling it “white torture.”
According to her family, Iranian authorities brought further charges against her in January 2022, including “assembly and collusion to act against national security” and “acting against national security and disrupting public order.” Following a summary trial in the absence of a legal counsel, Mohammadi was sentenced to an additional eight years and two months in prison, and 74 lashes. The sentence also imposes further punishments, including internal exile and a ban on giving statements to the media, using social media platforms, or participating in political groups.
Mohammadi was released on medical furlough following heart surgery in February 2022. However, on April 2022, she was arrested by Iranian intelligence officers at her home as the authorities decided to end her medical furlough and ordered her back to jail. Her family reported that she was ill-treated and insulted by the officers while being arrested.
In October 2022, PEN International learned that Mohammadi was sentenced to another 15 months in prison, followed by a two-year ban on travel and on joining political movements or parties, and three months of community service. The sentence was handed in absentia by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court following a summary trial. In addition, prison authorities issued a two-month ban on phone calls with her family in Iran as a punishment for her leading role in organising protests in prison in solidarity with the protest movement that swept the country following the death of Mahsa Amini.
According to her family, Mohammadi is now facing a total of 10 years imprisonment, 150 lashes, and a 12 million Iranian Rial fine (approximately £250) in addition to the restrictions imposed in October this year.
Mohammadi suffers from a neurological disorder that can result in seizures, temporary partial paralysis, and a pulmonary embolism for which she is said to be denied essential medication that could prevent further blood clots from forming. In May 2019, she underwent an emergency hysterectomy, after which she was returned to Evin Prison. In June 2019, PEN received reports that Mohammadi was being denied adequate medical care and antibiotics to treat a subsequent infection resulting from the surgery. PEN also received reports that she was denied necessary medications in June 2022.
Mohammadi has written for various reformist journals, among these Payam-e Hajar, which was later banned for its articles promoting the rights of all Iranians, regardless of gender, religion or political affiliation. In her latest book, White Torture, she documented the imprisonment of thirteen women, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and their shared experiences: harassment and beatings by guards, total blindfolding and denial of medical treatment. The book also sheds light on the prolonged use of solitary confinement against prisoners of conscience in Iran.
Following the restrictions imposed in October this year, Mohammadi is not allowed to call her husband, prominent journalist Taghi Rahmani, who spent 17 years in prison and then fled Iran for France in May 2011, or her children, who live in exile with their father.
“I have faith in the path I have chosen, the actions I have taken, as well as my beliefs. I am determined to make human rights a reality [in Iran] and have no regrets. If those who claim to be spreading justice are firm on their judgment against me, I am also firm on my faith and beliefs. I will not waiver under tyrannical punishments that will limit my freedom to the four walls of the prison cell. I will endure this incarceration, but I will never accept it as lawful, human or moral, and I will always speak out against this injustice”. Narges Mohammadi, as quoted in Prominent Rights Activist Narges Mohammadi Rejects Prison Sentence in Stinging Open Letter, October 14, 2016.
PEN International considers Narges Mohammadi’s imprisonment a breach of her right to freedom of expression and calls for her immediate and unconditional release.
PEN International also calls on the Iranian authorities to ensure Mohammadi’s physical and mental well-being, to grant her full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency, and not subject her to any form of physical or psychological suffering, torture or ill-treatment, including flogging, pending her release.
This is what you can do:
Appeals can be sent to:
Leader of the Islamic Republic Grand Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei The Office of the Supreme Leader Islamic Republic Street End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran Email: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/... Twitter: @khamenei_ir (English-language account), @Khamenei_ar (Arabic-language), @Khamenei_es (Spanish-language account).
Head of the Judiciary
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje c/o Public Relations Office Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi – Vali Asr Street Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Ebrahim Raisi, Pasteur Street
Pasteur Square Tehran, Islamic Republic of
Phone number: +98(21)64451 Twitter: @raisi_com
Please copy to the Embassy of Iran in your country. You can find embassy addresses here.
Please inform PEN International of any action you take and of any responses you receive.
Raise awareness about Mohammadi’s case on social media, using the sample messages below and the hashtags #NargesMohammadi #ImprisonedWriter
I join @peninternational’s urgent call for the immediate release of #NargesMohammadi, Iranian writer, journalist and human rights defender, who currently faces 10 years imprisonment and is at risk of flogging in #Iran. Will you join our call? Take action now: https://pen-international.org/... #ImprisonedWriter
I join @pen_int's urgent call for the immediate release of #ImprisonedWriter, journalist and human rights defender #NargesMohammadi, who currently faces 10 years imprisonment and is at risk of flogging in #Iran. Will you join our call? Take action now: https://pen-international.org/...
We also encourage you to highlight Mohammadi’s case by:
Please keep us informed of your activities. Messages can be sent to Mina Thabet, MENA Regional Coordinator, at Mina.Thabet@pen-international.org.
Name: Tsitsi Dangarembga
Occupation: Writer, filmmaker, playwright, activist.
Situation: Persecuted, convicted
Tsitsi Dangarembga is an award-winning Zimbabwean novelist, filmmaker, playwright, activist, and founding member of PEN Zimbabwe.
Dangarembga was arrested with her friend Julie Barnes on 31 July 2020 by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police with neither warrant nor explanation, while peacefully protesting government corruption on a deserted street in Harare. She was detained overnight and then charged in court the following day with inciting public violence.
Dangarembga was released on bail of ZW 5,000 on 1 August 2020 and ordered to attend court on 18 September 2020. She was ordered to surrender her passport to the authorities and to report to a police station every week until her next appearance in court. She petitioned for a return of her passport and also challenged attempts by the state to prosecute her in the dreaded Anti-Corruption Court, although the charge under which she was arrested had nothing to do with corruption. Dangarembga successfully obtained her passport, however her trial proceeded.
On 29 September 2022, Dangarembga and her co-defendant were sentenced by a Zimbabwe Magistrates Court in the capital, Harare, to 6 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for 5 years on condition that they do not commit a similar offence. In addition, they were fined around 38,640 ZWL or 3 months imprisonment in default. They paid the fine and on 13 October, they filed a notice of appeal against the conviction and sentence at the High Court of Zimbabwe.
Their conviction follows a long-running period of legal and judicial persecution that the two have endured since July 2020. PEN International condemns the conviction, yet another sad illustration of the lengths the Zimbabwean authorities are determined to go to punish critics of government conduct. Misuse of the administration of justice systems in attempts to supress free speech violates Zimbabwe’s Constitution and international human rights obligations.
Dangarembga’s arrest and prosecution are part of a coordinated crackdown by the Zimbabwe authorities on those speaking out against alleged cases of high-level corruption in which government and state officials are suspected of culpability. PEN International has been calling for the immediate dropping of all charges against her since August 2020. She was notably featured in PEN International’s 2021 Case List.
Dangarembga won the PEN Award for Freedom of Expression 2021, and the PEN Pinter Prize 2021. Her novel, This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. She is also the author of Nervous Conditions, which she wrote at the age of twenty-five and for which she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Nervous Conditions was praised by Doris Lessing as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. She is the founder of the production house Nyerai Films and the International Images Film Festival for Women, as well as the Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa where she works as director.
A statement by Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes, following their conviction on September 2022 can be found here.
“Can you cook books and feed them to your husband? Stay at home with your mother. Learn to cook and clean. Grow vegetables.” ― Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions, 1988
PEN International consider Tsitsi Dangarembga’s imprisonment to be a breach of her right to freedom of expression and calls for all charges against her to be dropped, and an end to the campaign of harassment against her. We also call on the Zimbabwe authorities to uphold their national and international human rights obligations and to desist from all acts of persecution against dissenting voices such as Dangarembga. This is what you can do:
Write to the Zimbabwean authorities calling on them to drop all charges against Dangarembga and end the campaign of harassment against her.
Appeals can be sent to:
Email: email@example.com, Tel: +263 24 270 7091/7, Twitter: @edmnangagwa
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +263 24 774 620/7, Twitter: @ZiyambiZ
Tel: +263 716 800 107, Twitter: @PoliceZimbabwe
Please consult your country’s diplomatic service for updated info and contact details for diplomatic missions or administrative divisions responsible for Zimbabwe.
Please inform PEN International of any action you take and of any responses you receive.
Raise awareness about Dangarembga’s case on social media, using the sample messages below and the hashtags #TsitsiDangarembga #ImprisonedWriter:
I support @peninternational 's Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign and stand in solidarity with Zimbabwean writer #TsitsiDangarembga who was recently handed a suspended sentence of 6 months imprisonment, for peacefully exercising her right to free speech while protesting government corruption in Harare in 2020. Will you join us? Your voice matters: https://pen-international.org/campaigns/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2022 #ImprisonedWriter
I support @pen_int's Day of the #ImprisonedWriter campaign and Zimbabwean writer #TsitsiDangarembga who was recently convicted for peacefully exercising her right to free speech while protesting government corruption in 2020. Will you join us? https://pen-international.org/... #ImprisonedWriter
We also encourage you to highlight Dangarembga’s case by:
Please keep us informed of your activities. Messages can be sent to Nduko o’Matigere, Africa Regional Coordinator for PEN International: email@example.com.
Name: Server Mustafayev
Occupation: Citizen journalist, human rights defender
Server Mustafayev is a Crimean Tatar citizen journalist and human rights defender, founder and coordinator of the grassroots, human rights movement Crimean Solidarity in Russian-occupied Crimea.
On 21 May 2018, Federal Security Services (FSB) officers raided Mustafayev’s house in Bakhchisaray, southern Crimea, before taking him to the FSB headquarters in Simferopol, the capital of the peninsula. He was placed in pre-trial detention the following day and charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 205.5 part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code over his alleged links to Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation banned in the Russian Federation but legal in Ukraine.
On 22 February 2019, Mustafayev was further charged with ‘conspiring to seize power by violent means under Article 278 of the Russian Criminal Code. He was transferred from Crimea to the Russian Federation on 12 September 2019; his trial opened in the Southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don shortly afterwards. Mustafayev fell ill several times during his trial yet was denied adequate medical care and made to appear in Court. On 16 September 2020, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced him to fourteen years in a strict regime penal colony on trumped-up charges. Seven other men, all members of Crimean Solidarity, also received lengthy prison sentences as part of the case. The Military Court of Appeal in Vlasikha, Moscow, upheld Mustafayev’s sentence in March 2022. He is not expected to be released prior to September 2034.
Born on 5 May 1986, Sever Mustafayev is married and has four children. He is being held in Tambov, Siberia, far away from his home and family in Crimea. PEN International denounces serious flaws in judicial proceedings against him, including his lengthy pre-trial detention and the fact that he is being held in the Russian Federation. Under international law, Crimea constitutes occupied territory and as the occupying power, the Russian Federation is obliged not to transfer civilian prisoners out of it. Trying civilians in military courts also violates international human rights norms. In June 2018, the European Parliament urged the Russian authorities to release Mustafayev immediately, a call reiterated by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in November 2021.
Before being transferred to the Russian Federation, Mustafayev wrote a moving letter, in which he expressed his determination to speak against the Russian occupation of Crimea, encouraged fellow journalists to write about human rights abuses in the peninsula, and notably thanked PEN Ukraine for their support.
Mustafayev is amongst 15 Ukrainian citizen journalists and human rights activists who are currently being kept behind bars in the Russian Federation and in occupied Crimea on politically motivated ground. PEN International had repeatedly condemned sweeping restrictions to freedom of expression in occupied Crimea. Following the Russian Federation’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the already limited civic space in the peninsula has shrunk even further, with scores of Crimean residents prosecuted merely for calling for peace, in flagrant violation of international law, which compels the Russian Federation to respect the penal laws of the occupied territory. ‘Russian standards’ are being imposed in local schools, with the teaching of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages, history and literature being phased out. Crimean Tatars have also been disproportionally affected by draft notices and conscripted to serve in the Russian armed forces.
In September 2022, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International adopted a resolution condemning the Russian Federation’s full-fledged war on Ukraine and urging the Russian Federation to immediately end the war.
‘It’s easy to break a finger, impossible to shatter a fist. United, we are invincible.’
PEN International believes that Server Mustafayev is being targeted for his human rights work and for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. This is what you can do:
Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic contacts, calling on them to:
Raise awareness of Mustafayev’s case on social media, using the sample messages below and the hashtags #FreeMustafayev #ImprisonedWriter
Today, as I join PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign, I call for the immediate and unconditional release of Crimean Tatar #ImprisonedWriter Server Mustafayev, who is being kept behind bars in the Russian Federation on politically motivated grounds. Join me in taking action: https://pen-international.org/... #ServerMustafayev
Today, I join @pen_int in calling for the release of Crimean Tatar #ImprisonedWriter #ServerMustafayev, who is being kept behind bars in the Russian Federation on politically motivated grounds. Join me in taking action: https://pen-international.org/...
Please share this graphic on social media to highlight Mustafayev’ case.
Messages of solidarity can be sent using the form here.
Please note that all messages need to be written in Russian if they are to be accepted by the penitentiary authorities. If you do not speak Russian, please use the sample text below or write a different message in English, French or Spanish, and we will arrange translation:
Dear Server, I wish you good health and strength and hope that you will soon be released. We are all thinking of you and stand with you in solidarity and respect.
Дорогой Сервер, желаю Вам крепкого здоровья и сил, и надеюсь, что Вы скоро будете освобождены. Мы все думаем о Вас и поддерживаем в знак солидарности и уважения.
We also encourage you to highlight the case of Mustafayev, the other imprisoned Crimean journalists, the state of freedom of expression in occupied Crimea, and the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine by:
Please keep us informed of your activities. Messages can be sent to Aurélia Dondo, Europe Programme Coordinator: Aurelia.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: José Rubén Zamora Marroquín
José Rubén Zamora Marroquín is a renowned Guatemalan journalist and founder of three of the most read newspapers in Guatemala and Central America: Siglo Veintiuno, Nuestro Diario and elPeriódico. One of the most outspoken critics of the Guatemalan government led by President Alejandro Giammattei, together with his colleagues at elPeriódico, Zamora has focused on investigating and exposing corruption in public administration and the private sector.
On 29 July 2022, Zamora was arrested at his home and brought to jail by the National Civil Police. On the same day his bank accounts were frozen. On 30 July, the headquarters of elPeriódico were occupied by officers of the Public Prosecutor's Office and the National Civil Police, who isolated the newspaper's employees, preventing them from leaving the building. A few weeks later Flora Silva, the newspaper's financial director, was also taken into custody. Both were arrested by the Prosecutor's Office on trumped up charges of money laundering, blackmailing, influence peddling and conspiracy to launder money.
Zamora’s arrest came five days after strong accusations of corruption against several present and past government officials were published in a Sunday edition of elPeriódico. However, repression and threats against the journalist have been going on for years. In 2003, his home was raided following the publication of the investigations Ríos Montt investigations, La Mafia y el Ejército, and some of his notes.
In October 2021, Zamora accused President Giammatti and Consuelo Porras, Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, of fabricating a case against him in order to imprison and silence him. In September 2021, Porras was sanctioned by the United States on charges of obstruction of justice in Guatemala. Acts of corruption were also revealed in investigations by Zamora throughout various presidential administrations.
International and regional human rights and civil society organizations such as the Association of Journalists of Guatemala (APG), have publicly condemned Zamora's detention as a clear attack on freedom of expression in Guatemala. Most recently in September 2022, Pedro Vaca Villarreal, the Inter America Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, in his statement R196/22 expressed concern about the lack of guarantees for the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Guatemala, and called on the government to fully and effectively guarantee these rights.
Zamora is the beneficiary of precautionary measures issued by the IACHR since 2003, upon recognition of the risks he faces in relation to his work as journalist.
“It is time to pull our national politics out of the quicksand of corruption, impunity and drugs and transform it into a solid foundation; to build a decent, just, civilised country, where dreams, hopes and demands are answered and where we all fit, in a context of respect and plurality…As for me, I will spend my last day in jail, if necessary, as a political prisoner of Giammattei, Miguelito and the Pact of Corrupts, before I murder my conscience”.
Rubén Zamora's speech for the Day of the Journalist in Nicaragua, 2019.
The Guatemalan authorities must immediately and unconditionally release José Rubén Zamora Marroquín and end all criminal proceedings against him. This is what you can do:
Appeals can be sent to:
President of Guatemala
Dr. Alejandro Giammattei
Vicepresident of Guatemala
César Guillermo Castillo Reyes
Attorney General of Guatemala and Head of Public Prosecutor's Office
Dra. María Consuelo Porras Argueta
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Joaquín Rodrigo Flores Guzmán
Director of the Guatemalan Penitentiary System
Please send an email expressing your concern to the Guatemalan Embassies in your country.
Please inform PEN International of any action you take and any feedback you receive.
Raise awareness of Zamora's case on social media, using the sample messages below and the hashtags #JoséRubénZamora #ImprisonedWriter
Please share this graphic on social media to highlight the case of José Rubén Zamora Marroquín.
Please send messages in solidarity to Zamora using the form here.
Please consider electing him as an honorary member of your Center.
We also encourage you to highlight Zamora’s case and the state of freedom of expression in Guatemala by:
• Publishing articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press.
• Organising public events, press conferences and demonstrations.
• Promote his writings.
Please keep us informed of your activities. Messages can be sent to Alicia Quiñones, PEN International Americas Program Coordinator, at email@example.com.
PEN International has just launched a GoFundMe Crisis Appeal, raising critical funds for humanitarian assistance and solidarity for writers at risk worldwide, in response to a steep rise in people seeking our support. Today, more than ever before, we urgently need additional donations to safeguard our mission, to help those who are persecuted, silenced, in prison, or in exile; and to defend freedom of expression, which across the world is under serious threat.SUPPORT WRITERS-AT-RISK