14 January, 2015
PEN International and Oxfam Novib honour courageous writers at the annual presentation Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards for freedom of expression
For the past 14 years PEN International and Oxfam Novib have highlighted the work of remarkable and courageous writers with the presentation of the prestigious Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards for Freedom of Expression – from Hrant Dink, an editor from Turkey’s Armenian minority, to Mexican journalist and human rights activist Lydia Cacho to Syrian writer and journalist Samar Yazebk – in recognition of their continued commitment to freedom of expression despite the danger to their own lives.
2015’s award recipients are Libyan writer and journalist Razan al-Maghrabi, Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Jila Bani-Yaghoub and her husband and fellow journalist Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee and Sudanese poet, writer and journalist Abdelmoneim Rahama.
‘This award is not only our way of honouring courageous writers and journalists who continue to fight for freedom of expression at great personal risk, it is also a way of telling those who seek to silence them that the world is watching.’– Carles Torner, PEN International Executive Director.
This year’s recipients of the award are strong advocates for freedom of expression in the face of great personal risk. Razan al-Maghrabi is a writer, journalist, and advocate of women’s rights and has often been critical of religious extremism despite continued threats. She is regularly harassed by individuals in the street, and lives in fear of being attacked, kidnapped or arrested.
Iranian journalist Jila Bani-Yaghoub was the editor of a women’s rights website Iranian Women’s Association. After being arrested several times, she served a one-year prison sentence for spreading propaganda against the system” and “insulting the president” for articles she had written in the run up to the disputed presidential election of 2009. She was released in June 2013 and was handed down a 30-year ban on working as a journalist.
Bani-Yaghoub’s husband and fellow journalist Bahman Ahmadi-Amouee was the editor at the business daily paper Sarmayeh but was arrested alongside her shortly after the 2009 election and convicted of “gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public security” and “insulting the president” and given a five-year prison sentence. He was released in October 2014, having served his sentence.
Sudanese poet, writer and journalist, Abdelmoneim Rahama co-founded the opposition daily newspaper Ajras al-Hurriya (Bells of Freedom), where he also worked as both administrative director and arts and culture correspondent between 2007 and 2009. In 2011 he was arrested as part of a series of mass arrests that took place by the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS). Rahama was tried in a military court on unknown charges and sentenced to death in Sinja, Sennar state, in November 2011. He was released almost a year later and in March 2013, Rahama left his home in Khartoum, Sudan, with his wife and four children for Ethiopia where he now lives.
This year Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård and PEN International President John Ralston Saul will deliver the keynote speeches at PEN’s Free the Word! event at the opening night of Writers Unlimited Winter Nights at The Hague followed by the presentation of the awards and a discussion exploring freedom of expression issues in partnership with PEN Netherlands. The Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards will be presented by Oxfam Novib Executive Director Farah Karimi.
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