December 2, 2016
Support Ahmed Naji
by Kait Howard
As we’ve chronicled on MobyLives, for ten months now the Egyptian writer Ahmed Naji has languished in prison waiting to appeal a two-year sentence for publishing sexually explicit content in his novel The Use of Life.
The next step in his ordeal comes this Sunday, December 4, when he and his lawyers will finally make the appeal before a cassation court. His cause is particularly difficult not merely because Naji is facing a judiciary that is operating under Egypt’s increasingly repressive president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but because the appeal hinges on the argument that the law under which he was prosecuted—which prohibits the publication of anything that “violates public modesty”—is unconstitutional. Since his conviction, authorities have rejected three motions for stay, prohibiting him from remaining free pending the appeal.
All of which means that now may be the most important time for the international community to speak out. This week, English PEN is spearheading an initiative that includes a petition, sending letters to the Egyptian government, and a massive social media action around the hashtag #FreeNaji planned for Saturday.
Since February there’s been an outpouring of support for Naji in Egypt and internationally. Let’s keep doing what we can. If, like us, you’re ambivalent about the efficacy of protesting via social media, keep in mind that Egyptian authorities are consummately sensitive about what’s being said about them online. See how you can help English PEN’s efforts here. You can also schedule posts to your Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr channels here.
Kait Howard is a publicist at Melville House.