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[VIRTUAL] #FreeNasrinandLoujain: Virtual Reading of Women Writers at Risk around the World

Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh said, “Our children must not inherit silence. People everywhere deserve human rights and equality before the law.” Nasrin Sotoudeh and Saudi feminist Loujain Al-Hathloul represent the future of women and girls in every country. Together, their struggle for human rights through activism and free expression transcends the narrow boundaries of politics and religion. Women and individuals around the world have been imprisoned for their writing and free expression. Reading their works in solidarity amplifies their voices and challenges the suppression of their free expression in support of human rights.


Join PEN America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, and the makers of the documentary film Nasrin on May 27 at 1pm ET for a virtual reading in solidarity with Sotoudeh, Al-Hathloul, and all unjustly human rights activists detained worldwide. Featuring an introduction by Executive Director of Amnesty International USA Paul O’Brien and moderated by journalist and writer Sarah Chayes, young women student activists will read excerpts of writing by women who have been imprisoned for their work, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, Loujain Al-Hathloul, Ugandan poet Stella Nyanzi, Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang, Belarusian philosopher Olga Shparaga, and Chinese online poet Zhang Wenfang. PEN America’s Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’s Karen Robinson, and author of Zahra’s Paradise Amir Soltani will conclude the reading with a brief discussion and call to action. The selected works of Sotoudeh, Al-Hathloul, Nyanzi, Trang, Shparaga, and Zhang each represent the importance of speaking up for human rights and women’s rights.

Co-presented by PEN America, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Amnesty International USA, and the filmmakers of Nasrin, this event is free and open to the public with registration via Zoom. Visit nasrinandloujain.com and nasrinfilm.com for more ways to take action, and tag @penamerica @Nasrinfilm @RFKHumanRights @amnestyusa and use the hashtags #FreeNasrin #FreeLoujain #FreeNasrinandLoujain to share these women’s stories.


Karin Deutsch Karlekar headshot

Karin Deutsch Karlekar is the director of PEN America’s Free Expression at Risk Programs and leads PEN America’s assistance to individuals at risk as a result of their expression and an ongoing partnership with PEN Myanmar. She has two decades of experience in global free expression, press freedom, and digital rights issues, as well as advocacy and assistance work on behalf of writers, bloggers, and journalists. Dr. Karlekar has developed index methodologies and conducted training sessions on press freedom, internet freedom, freedom of expression, and monitoring dangerous speech; authored a number of special reports and academic papers; and conducted research, assessment, and advocacy missions to Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Karen Robinson headshot

Karen Robinson is the Speak Truth to Power program director and the first director of Human Rights Education at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. Robinson led Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’s creation of the first Speak Truth To Power human rights education packet, which has been distributed to thousands of schools in the United States and internationally. She has over 30 years of experience in human rights education, community and youth development, and community organizing. Robinson started her career in the field of community engagement and youth development at American University, where she helped start what was then the Center for Volunteerism and Community Service. Robinson also served as the Mid-Atlantic regional deputy director and director of the Human Rights Education program at Amnesty International USA.

Amir Soltani headshot

Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American writer, filmmaker, and human rights activist. His graphic novel on protest and dissent in Iran, Zahra’s Paradise, co-created with Khalil Bendib, was nominated for two Eisner Awards. Zahra’s Paradise made publishing history as a real-time online graphic novel translated into 16 languages. Soltani is the producer and co-director of Dogtown Redemption, an Emmy-nominated documentary film on class, race, and space chronicling the life of recyclers in West Oakland, CA. Soltani studied social and intellectual history at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Harvard University.


Sarah Chayes headshot

Sarah Chayes is a journalist and writer internationally recognized for her innovative thinking on corruption and its impact on terrorism, revolutions and their violent aftermaths, and environmental degradation. Chayes is the author of Thieves of State: Why Threatens Global Security, On Corruption In America: And What Is at Stake, and The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban. Chayes previously served as senior fellow at the Carnegie Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. From 1996 to 2001, Chayes was National Public Radio’s Paris correspondent. For her work during the Kosovo crisis, she shared the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards. Chayes also reported from Afghanistan, covering the fall of the Taliban for NPR until she ended her journalism career in 2002 to remain in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where she founded a startup manufacturing cooperative to revive the region’s sustainable and economic development.

Belarusian protesters in background; on top: “I Support PEN Belarus” and PEN America logo

Our sister organization PEN Belarus has spent years uplifting writers and supporting the freedom to write. Now, the government is trying to shut them down. Show your support and tell them they’re not alone.