NEW YORK—In response to recent reports that Alaa al-Aswany, author of the critically-acclaimed book The Yacoubian Building, has been referred to a military court, accused of having “insulted the head of state and incited hatred against the regime” allegedly because of articles that he wrote for Deutsche Welle, PEN America Free Expression at Risk Programs Director Karin Karlekar issued the following statement:

“Al-Aswany is being accused merely because of his criticism of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. In one of his articles, he criticized major infrastructure projects ordered by Mr Sisi and the appointment of military officers to civilian posts. Expressing dissent and disagreement, informing the public of the government’s actions, and promoting better governance for Egypt are not crimes, but an exercise of the right to free expression. The government is blatantly pursuing a mission to harass writers and to censor voices reflecting the diversity and pluralism of Egyptian society. We condemn authorities’ imperious practices directed at eroding fundamental rights and call on them to immediately drop these ridiculous charges against al-Aswany and other Egyptian writers and creative artists.” 

Al-Aswany is one of the literary treasures of Egypt. Unfortunately, Egypt has a long history of curbing dissenting voices. PEN America has advocated for the rights of many other Egyptian writers, journalists, and creative artists, such as Ahmed NajiGalal El-Behairy, and Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan). Read further on PEN America’s work on Egypt here


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: