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Letter-writing campaigns

One of the meaningful ways you can work towards the release of imprisoned writers is through writing letters to those in government. Below we feature imprisoned writers from the Asia-Pacific region and include downloadable template letters that you can sign and send to the Prime Minister of Australia. 

Yang Hengjun

Yang, a Chinese-born Australian writer and academic, was seized by Chinese authorities during a visit to the country in January 2019. Beijing has accused the author of “espionage,” but has provided no public evidence to back up its claim. Since his arrest, Yang has been in Chinese state custody. Yang’s wife, who had accompanied him on his 2019 trip, is barred from leaving China. Yang has reportedly been held in solitary confinement, has endured lengthy interrogations, and is believed to be in fragile health. 

A blogger, academic, and political commentator, Yang Hengjun is best known in literary circles for his “Fatal Weakness” trilogy of spy thrillers. Yang is also a former visiting scholar at Columbia University.

Yang, who is originally from China, became an Australian citizen in 2000 and has spent the last two years in New York City as a visiting scholar at Columbia University. While Yang has previously been critical of the Chinese government, he has reportedly tamped down such criticism in recent years.

Chinese authorities have charged now him with spying, telling the Australian Embassy that he is “suspected of committing espionage crimes”. Espionage is punishable by death in China.

For the past 7 months, Yang was held under “residential” surveillance at a prison facility in southern Beijing. He was recently relocated to a different “criminal” detention centre in Beijing. Since that time, China has not explained the reasons for Dr Yang’s detention, nor has it allowed him access to his lawyers or family visits.

Yang is an Australian citizen and a journalist member of the MEAA. His arrest and detention without conviction amounts to an attack on press freedom and threatens the security of all international journalists trying to report from China.

PEN Sydney also supports Yang’s wife, Yuan Xiaolong, who has been detained and questioned on two separate occasions, banned from leaving the country and warned against speaking to foreign media.

The Campaign

Step 1: Download the template letter/s below.

Step 2: Add the date and your name to your letter.

Step 3: Print and post your letter.

Step 4: After submitting, join on the Change.Org Petition and post on Facebook and Twitter to encourage your friends to do the same! We just need another 300 signatures. 

Senator The Hon. M. Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women
PO Box 1420, Parramatta, NSW 2150
Download the template

Ambassador Graham Fletcher
Australian Embassy, China
21 Dongzhimenwai Street, Chaoyang District
Beijing, CHINA
Download the template

Ambassador Cheng Jingye
Download the template


Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is a British-Australian academic currently incarcerated in Iran.


A scholar of Shia Islam with a doctoral thesis on Bahraini history, Kylie was trained at Wolfson College at Cambridge University and Melbourne University where she was employed as an Early Career Researcher in Islamic Studies at the Asia Institute.

She was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as she went to leave Tehran in late 2018. This followed two complaints from Iranian citizens, including one at an academic conference Kylie was asked to speak at and during subsequent interviews for research.

At present, she is in solitary confinement in Ward Two A of Evin Prison. This section of the prison is controlled by political and military forces rather than the criminal justice system and has a notorious reputation as a punishing interrogation centre. Kylie has been there for over a year now after being sentenced to ten years for espionage.

The reason for Kylie’s incarceration has been debated privately by human rights groups, including PEN members, and journalists. Many argue that this is consistent with Iran’s long term actions of holding foreign nationals as leverage in diplomatic negotiations, including those centred on the Straits of Hormuz, the American nuclear deal, and the Missile Crisis earlier this year.

To date Kylie’s family, her employer Melbourne University, including the staff branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, have reassured multiple people that a diplomatic approach is the best course of action. Yet Kylie herself has asked for help. In an article ‘The Australian Government needs to step up its fight to free Kylie Moore-Gilbert from prison in Iran’ in The Conversation on January 30th 2020, Peter Greste argues that: 

… when the traditional methods have failed so dismally to improve anything about Moore- Gilbert’s situation, surely the time has come to shift gears and get shouty to ramp up pressure on both Australian diplomats and Iranian government officials.

Australian PEN centres have had Empty Chairs for Kylie at large public events in March, and have coordinated with PEN England and PEN International. There has been international activist support including from the group ‘Free Fariba and Roland’ from Sciences Po University in Paris who are working for other prisoners. 4 Correspondence has been received from Andrew Todd, First Assistant Secretary of Consular and Crisis Management Division at DFAT, and Penny Williams, an Assistant Secretary for DFAT as a whole.

We encourage members to write to them at the RG Casey Building in Canberra. This is in addition to writing to Ambassador Sachs in Tehran, Minister Payne in Parramatta, and Minister Dominic Raab in the United Kingdom. Perhaps most importantly, please write to Kylie herself, for each letter is a message of love that goes into a sea of injustice in the hope that she gets home.

For more information please consult the articles noted here, and, listen to the podcast ‘Why is an Australian academic locked up in Iran’s most notorious prison?’ on The Guardian, February 26 2020."

The Campaign

Step 1: Download the template letter.

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

Step 3: Visit the Prime Minister's website, enter your details and attach the signed letter.

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

You can also write regarding Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert to the Australian Ambassador to Iran.

Ms Lyndall Sachs
Australian Embassy
No. 11, Yekta Street, Bahar Street, Shahid Fallahi Street,
Valie Asr Avenue
Tehran 1973633651
Republic of Iran

Send a postcard to Dr Kylie Gilbert-Moore to let her know she has not been forgotten.

Tehran Province, District 2
Republic of Iran



Reza Khandan

Reza Khandan is a writer, literature critic, a researcher of popular culture, and a board member of the Iranian Writers’ Association. He has been a member of the IWA for 22 years, defending freedom of expression, writers’ rights and challenging censorship.

He was born in 1961 in Ardestan, Iran. When he was two years old his family moved to Tehran. Reza completed his high school in Tehran and after the Cultural Revolution, when the universities opened again, he studied psychology. When he was in high school, he started to write and his first book ‘The Neighbourhood Boys” was published in 1978. In two and half years about 100,000 copies were sold. Reza joined IWA in 1998, since then he has been elected as board member several times and he is now a member of the IWA board. He was arrested in 2009 for his activities around children rights, while he was in prison being a board member of IWA was added to his charges.

Baktash Abtin

Baktash Abtin is a poet and filmmaker and is a board member of the Iranian Writers’ Association. He has been a board member of the IWA three times. He has published five collections of poetries:

And When My Legs Become The Pen; Wrote To Return; My Eyelashes Has Stitched my Eyes; The Unpopulated ID; The Sledgehammer; In Monkey Inside me; My Grandfather Abtin has had extensive works in the film industry and has directed more than ten films. Most of these films are banned in Iran but have been screened in reputable international festivals in Rotterdam, Holland; Gutenberg, Sweden; Palm Spring, USA; Thessaloniki, Greece; and the other festivals in France, Italy, and India.

He has won many awards for his poetries and films including:

  • Poetry Book of the Year, Iranian Journalists
  • Best Director for The Picture Festival in Iran
  • Best Film, Best Director, Best Edit, Best Sound and Best Cinematography for the Film Mark Park
  • Best Director from The Truth Cinema, Iran

Keyvan Bajan (Bazhan) 

Keyvan Bajan is a novelist and researcher who has spent his life publishing stories and challenging government censorship.

Born in 1972, in Astaneh Ashrafiyeh, Iran. He was a university graduate in Dramatic Arts and Theatre. He has worked with Iranian publications and magazines like “Adineh” and “Kelk”; and newspaper and weeklies like “Sahrgh”, “Iran”, “Hamshahri”, “Bani-e Film”, “Saheb-e Ghalam”, “Navid”.

He has also published numerous books about Iran’s oral history, as well as novels and collections of stories and poems.

In 2005, the pressure from the Ministry of Intelligence started with weekly interrogations.

The Campaign

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!