Life and Freedom for Ashraf Fayadh
PEN American Center and the Brooklyn Museum present a reading of selected poems and others texts in support of Palestinian poet and art curator Ashraf Fayadh, who was sentenced to death by a Saudi court on November 17, 2015 for apostasy. We are joining forces with the International Literature Festival Berlin (ILB) in their call for all individuals, institutions, schools, and media outlets that care about justice and freedom to participate in a worldwide reading to press the U.K. and U.S. governments to intervene on behalf of Ashraf Fayadh, free expression, and the defense of human rights.
Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian poet, artist, and curator who faces a sentence of death by beheading for the charge of apostasy. The charges against him stem from complaints relating to supposed atheistic and blasphemous themes in his poetry collection Instructions Within, as well as a personal altercation with a man who reported him to Saudi Arabia’s religious authorities. Fayadh’s poems are ruminations about his life as a Palestinian refugee, as well as cultural and philosophical issues. The court case against him has dragged on for nearly two years, and he has now been sentenced to death simply for exercising his fundamental human right to free expression. Fayadh has been given 30 days to appeal the death sentence against him, a deadline that is rapidly approaching.
Selected poems and other texts will be read in both English and Arabic.
If you are unable to join us in New York, watch this event on Livestream!
Natalie Diaz, a member of the Mojave and Pima Indian tribes, is a poet, language activist, and educator. She holds a BA and an MFA from Old Dominion University, and is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012). Her honors and awards include the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she works with the last speakers of Mojave and directs a language revitalization program.
Duranya Freeman has worked as a journalist for Sri Lanka’s The Nation, and is a staff writer for two of Colorado College’s student publications, the Cipher and the Catalyst. She is a 2015 recipient of a South Asian Journalists Association award for her writing on post-war rehabilitation and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. She is a freshman at Colorado College with a passion for studying public health and global conflict.
Ru Freeman is a Sri Lankan born writer and activist. She is the author of the novels A Disobedient Girl (2009) and On Sal Mal Lane (2014), as well as the editor of the anthology Extraordinary Rendition: (American) Writers on Palestine (2015), a collection of the voices of 65 American poets and writers speaking about America’s dis/engagement with Palestine. She holds a graduate degree in labor studies, researching female migrant labor in the countries of Kuwait, the U.A.E., and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is the 2014 winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction by an American Woman. She writes for the Huffington Post on books and politics.
Dina Omar is writer and graduate student in medical anthropology at Yale University. She is a founding member of National Students for Justice in Palestine and served on the National Executive Board for the Palestine Youth Movement (2010-2011). She teaches English and creative writing in high schools, universities, and prisons and is committed to building community through the collective writing process. Her writing is published in the Believer Magazine, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Mizna, and Yellow Medicine Review. She is from Ramoun, Palestine.
Dread Scott is a photographer, performance artist, and provocateur who makes “revolutionary art to propel history forward.” His work, which derives from a passion to uncover injustices as well as highlight the historical struggles toward equality, has been exhibited at the MoMA PS1, the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, The Walker Art Center, the Pori Art Museum in Pori, Finlandas, and the Whitney Museum. Scott’s most recent work is currently featured in the “Agitprop!” exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum.
Elissa Schappell is an American novelist, short story writer, editor, and essayist. Her first book of fiction, Use Me (2000), was runner up for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She is the co-founder of the literary magazine Tin House and Editor-at-Large. She is also a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair and author of the “Hot Type” book column. She was previously a Senior Editor at The Paris Review. She teaches at schools including Columbia University, NYU, and Queens University. Originally from Delaware, she now lives in Brooklyn with her family.
Rob Spillman is editor of Tin House magazine and editorial advisor of Tin House Books. He was previously the monthly book columnist for Details magazine and is a contributor of book reviews and essays to Salon and Bookforum. He has written for the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Review, British GQ, Connoisseur, Details, Nerve, the New York Times Book Review, Premiere, Rolling Stone, Spin, Sports Illustrated, SPY, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Worth, among other magazines, newspapers, and online magazines. He has also worked for Random House, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker.
Join PEN as well as seventy-one of the most prominent names in international literature and art in calling for the immediate release of the poet Ashraf Fayadh by adding your name to an open letter to President Obama. Sign the letter here.