(NEW YORK) – PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) today condemned the arrest of Iranian musician and poet Mona Borzouei, who was taken into custody on September 28 by Iran’s security forces for reading a poem in support of the Mahsa Amini protests.

Bourzei was arrested after she recorded and uploaded a video of herself reading her own  poem reportedly in support of the protests, which have swept the country in recent weeks following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish-Iranian woman. The Iranian authorities have responded aggressively to the mass demonstrations, detaining an estimated 1500 protesters, while at least 150 people have been killed.

Julie Trébault, ARC director, said: “Today, our hearts are with Mona Borzouei, who has been cruelly detained for simply sharing a poem with her fellow Iranians. We call for her immediate release and urge the Iranian government to respect the free expression and human rights of the other courageous Iranian artists who have stood up firmly for their vision of a freer Iran. In times like these, we are reminded of the tremendous power of music to motivate and mobilize people. The arrests of Borzouei and others like her who face criminal penalties violate Iran’s  international commitments to respect free expression and human rights.”

Bourzei is a well-known Iranian singer and lyricist who first gained prominence after her song “My Tear” became a hit across Iran in 2003. In the video, she read a verse of a poem which declared: “We will take this homeland back from your hands.” Her whereabouts or condition are currently unknown.

Iran is among the top five countries in PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, which provides an annual count of jailed writers worldwide. Writers in Iran are detained, sentenced and imprisoned arbitrarily while authorities use extralegal tactics, including surveillance and threats, to punish and retaliate against them, and to suppress free expression in literary, artistic, and public spaces in and outside of the country.

In the past week, numerous writers and dissident voices have been detained in Iran as protests have swelled against long-standing constraints on free expression. More about PEN America’s work on Iran can be found here.

 About the Artists at Risk Connection

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protdurinect 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. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057