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PEN Sydney calls for the release of three Iranian writers


PEN Sydney, Melbourne and Perth Statement

On 4th October 2020, three members of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA) - Reza Khandan Mehabadi, Baktash Abtin and Kayvan Bazhan - were transferred to Evin prison. In what was an unfair trial and a wrongful conviction, their imprisonment during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has put their lives at serious risk.

These three writers were imprisoned because of their objection to censorship and their advocacy of freedom of expression, and all organisations and writers supporting and favoring freedom are required to support them. PEN centres in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth call upon the Iranian government to release the writers immediately.

Mark Isaacs
President, PEN Sydney

IWA statement

[Edited version] While a new wave of Covid-19 in Iran is taking hundreds of lives daily and lack of sanitary and medical and equipment in the prisons have had devastating consequences, the imprisonment of three writers and others who are accused for political reasons and having different beliefs means nothing except that the security and judiciary want to kill their opponents.

The reason to issue and to execute these sentences for the three writers is that they are members of Iranian Writers Association and they were defending freedom of expression. These sentences are the sign of mounting pressure on independent writers. While the country is crippled by poverty, diseases and organized corruption, the government is increasingly suppressing freedom of expression, arresting, torturing and executing dissidents rather than answering the righteous demands of people.

The Iranian Writers Association (IWA) condemns the execution of sentences against these three members and believes it is a criminal act against the human rights regulations.

The Iranian Writers Association who have always witnessed the persecution and arrest of its members and have lost a couple of its members due to state assassinations, hold the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its judicial and Intelligence ministry responsible for their wellbeing in prison.

The Iranian Writers Association asks all the writers, independent organisations in Iran and around the world, the Human Rights organisations and freedom loving people to react to these inhumane sentences and raise their voices around the world.

Statement from Reza Khandan

[Edited transcript]
I am Reza Khandan. I am a board member of Iranian Writers Association (IWA). I have to emphasise the reasons why and in what circumstances these sentences were given to us.

We were taken to interrogation and hearings while the plaintiff was basically the creator of the case, prepared the case, sent it to the judicial authorities and in all stages of the hearing had the power. The court that, according to definition is supposed to be unbiased, was not just in any stages of the hearing. From the moment the accused entered the courtroom, it could be observed that the judge was biased.

We were not sentenced because we published a magazine or wrote a book. These are not specifically the reasons behind our sentences. We were in fact sentenced because we are defending freedom of expression and fighting against censorship. We have been persecuted for several years and now they are sending us to prison. Our hope is that the battleground against censorship and to defend freedom of expression energetically continues its path. I am personally grateful to all those who defended us up to now and I will be appreciative to those
who will support us after this. Because this is not the battleground to defend three persons; Reza Khandan, Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bazhan. This fight would not be limited to these three people, but it is to defend freedom of expression. I again appreciate your support in future.

Statement from Baktash Abtin

[Edited transcript]

I am Baktash Abtin. I am a board member of Iranian Writers Association (IWA). When you read this message, probably my dear friends Mr. Reza Khandan Mahabadi, Keyvan Bazhan and I are in Jail. I briefly tell you the oppression imposed on us. In 2015 the security force raided my house. Then these pressures increased. The Iranian authorities created three security cases for
me, and all these were fabricated against us.

When I was at Shamloo’s (the famous, anti-establishment poet) grave, the security forces attacked and bashed me but they complained that I beat them. I have been interrogated, prosecuted and heard in court several times. I was bailed out three times after I deposited a very large amount of money. In the end, Reza Khandan and I received six years imprisonment and Keyvan Bazhan three and half years.
But the main question is: have these pressures caused any disruptions in our strong will? No!

Myself and my friends and colleagues in the Iranian Writers Association (IWA) have done our duties rightfully. Even if they throw 30 active members of IWA into jail, I am sure our passionate, young generation and senior members will not allow the light of IWA to be extinguished and they will be committed to their duties.

On a personal level, during these times, I have made five films and I wrote my poetry book that is going to be published. Therefore, these pressures have not caused any disruption to my will or my work. But I need to thank all of you for your kindness towards my friends and me and being with us. Farewell with hope for better and brighter days.


Step 1: Download the template letter (English) or Persian translated version here

Step 2: Add the date and your name and signature.

Step 3: Post to:

His Excellency Mr Fereidoun Haghbin
Ambassador of Iran
Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
25 Culgoa Circuit
O'Malley ACT 2606

Step 4: After posting, get onto Facebook and Twitter and encourage your friends to do the same!


Read PEN Sydney's previous discussion with Mr. Reza Khandan Mahabadi and Mr. Baktash Abtin here

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