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Iran: “Freedom has never been gifted to anyone on a gold plate” – writers facing imprisonment speak to PEN Sydney

Wednesday 8 July 2020 - 4:45pm

Keyvan Bazhan, Baktash Abtin and Reza Khandan-Mahabadi


Update #1 to RAN 02/2020

On 21 May 2020, PEN International issued an alert on the summoning to prison of three Iranian writers, Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan-Mahabadi, and Keyvan Bazhan, who were convicted in May 2019 for their critical writings. The three writers have not yet complied with the order amidst fears for their welfare under the current COVID-19 pandemic which is widespread in Iran’s prisons. PEN International continues to call for the dropping of the charges against them. Further details and guidance on sending appeals can be found here.

In June 2020, Baktash Abtin and Reza Khandan-Mahabani gave an interview to PEN Sydney’s president, Mark Isaacs, where they spoke of the long history of censorship of writers, their own personal experience of being censored and the story around their most recent arrest and trial.

In his closing comments, Baktash Abtin said:
“… freedom has never been gifted to anyone on a gold plate. We ought to pay a heavy price for it. In countries like ours, where a dictatorship is ruling, while we are fighting for freedom of expression and against censorship, to obtain our natural rights seems more difficult. In a country like Iran, death is very cheap for intellectuals, freedom loving people and those who fight for freedom of expression. […] we are not worried to face trials, to go to prison and endure sufferings, because we have made up our minds. […] We, with complete knowledge of the risks, will emphasise our defined obligation, which is to fight for freedom of expression and against censorship. But we expect all our friends, writers, intellectuals and those who fight for freedom of expression around the world to support us, especially while they do not have a similar horrible situation like us. Your support is not for a couple of names, your support is about supporting a series of existences and making a stand, otherwise we would come and go. And, as I said, in third world countries, death is very cheap and suffering widely available. Therefore, we expect our friends to support us and our freedom. Thanks.”

The full interview can be found on PEN Sydney’s website.

For more information, please contact Sara Whyatt, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, Unit A, 162-164 Abbey St, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: