Appeal for arrested Iranian writers
by Ellie Robins
Today is World Refugee Day, and thoughts turn to regimes that imprison their writers, forcing others into exile. Iran is one such regime, and PEN last week launched an appeal on behalf of two Iranian writers sentenced to a year each in prison. Translator and women’s rights activist Manijeh Najm Eraghi was summoned to prison on 3rd June, and writer and economist Fariborz Rais Dana on 21st May, a year and a half after he was arrested and bailed for giving interviews to the foreign media criticising President Ahmadinejad‘s economic policies.
Both are charged with membership of the Iranian Writers’ Assocation. Other charges against Eraghi, who served as the association’s secretary, include transmitting its statements and participating in peaceful gatherings. Rais Dana is also charged with preparing seditious announcements against the regime, giving interviews to the BBC and Voice of America, and accusing the Islamic Republic of abusing prisoners and holding show trials.
PEN is calling for anyone concerned about the cases to send appeals:
Protesting the detention of writers Manijeh Najm Eraghi and Fariborz Rais Dana, who are sentenced for their membership of the Iranian Writers Association;
Calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory;
Seeking assurances that they are given full access to their family, lawyer and medical care whilst detained.
The Iranian Writers’ Association was established over four decades ago, and has come under increasing pressure in the last few years. In 2008, the group Iranian Writers’ Association (In Exile) wrote a moving open letter to PEN from Paris, detailing the plight of writers in the country. You can read it here.
Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.