The Iranian regime has demonstrated yet again that they are the sworn enemy of freedom. On Saturday 16 October writer Arash Ganji was summoned to serve his 11 year prison term in the notorious Evin Prison, after losing his appeal. The judge who issued the summons is Moghiseh, known as Naserian, whose name has been mentioned repeatedly in the trial currently taking place in The Stockholm District Court in Sweden in connection to the mass murder of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988.
Arash Ganji is a prominent writer, translator, and on the board of The Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA), which advocates for freedom of expression and an end to censorship. In December 2019 Ganji was arrested and detained at Evin Prison for 29 days for his translation of a book about a Kurdish-led uprising in northern Syria, a year later he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on a number of national security charges.
In June 2021 he recorded this video for PEN Sydney, in which he called for freedom of expression across the Middle East: “I know very well that real freedom of expression cannot be guaranteed simply by being mentioned on a piece of paper and we should not see that as an ultimate solution. But the lack of those guarantees gives governments a free hand to attack that freedom violently. Middle Eastern governments have not and would not easily accept freedom of expression, so we need to fight and struggle to bring freedom of expression into the constitutions of these countries; and whether we achieve it or not, it will be a huge democratic fight. This struggle will lay the ground for alliances and international solidarity with other democratic movements like the working class, women, the environment, migrants and others. And this will be a way for us to learn how to practise struggle and internationalism.”
Arash joins three other Iranian writers Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bazhan who are currently being held in Evin prison for their critical writing. All three are members of the IWA. Recently PEN America honoured the trio with the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. In the 1980s and 1990s the Iranian regime assassinated, killed and attempted to kill several members of the IWA.
The Iranian regime is trying in vain to handcuff the thoughts and creativity of Arash Ganji. But history has shown that thoughts become actions, voices become screams and words flourish beyond the walls of prisons. The hands of international solidarity will reach behind the walls of Evin prison to support and warm the hearts of all four IWA members, to terminate tyranny and to deliver freedom for all of them.
PEN Sydney and PEN Melbourne call for the immediate release of IWA members and all political prisoners in Iran. We remind the Iranian authorities of their obligation under the UN Human Rights Charter to respect all freedoms and to immediately abolish all executions and all forms of torture and trauma.