2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award Honoree: Narges Mohammadi

Targeted by the Iranian government for more than 30 years for her writings and human rights activism, Narges Mohammadi is currently jailed on false charges of “spreading anti-state propaganda” and defamation.

Mohammadi, the 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 6, 2023.


At age 51, having been jailed for most of the last decade, Mohammadi sustains the will to defy Iran’s persistent and unjust effort to silence her, despite being tortured, denied the medicine she needs, held for long periods in solitary confinement, and separated for years from her husband and twin children, who live in exile. Through letters, interviews, books, and social media she has kept the spotlight on human rights and alerted the world to prison abuses. In 2022, she published White Torture, a book that exposes the shocking details of physical and psychological abuse in Iranian prisons through the testimonies of 14 women.

For two decades, Mohammadi has fiercely defended women, political prisoners, and ethnic minorities, working with Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi’s Defenders of Human Rights Center, where she is vice president. She was first targeted by Iranian authorities as a college student when she wrote about women’s rights for her student newspaper and was arrested at a political meeting.

Mohammadi was most recently detained in November 2021, and is serving several sentences related to defamation and anti-state propaganda charges totaling more than 10 years and 70 lashes. Authorities have threatened to impose additional trumped-up charges in recent weeks.

At the 2023 PEN America Literary Gala on May 18, Mohammadi sent a letter from prison, read by Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a PEN America supporter.

Mohammadi’s husband, Iranian journalist Taghi Rahmani, accepted the award on her behalf. The Freedom to Write award kicks off a year of campaigning on behalf of the honoree. 

Photos from the PEN America Literary Gala honoring Narges mohammadi


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