(NEW YORK)—In response to news that writer, scholar, and 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award co-honoree Reza Khandan Mahabadi has been released from prison in Iran, PEN America’s Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs, made the following comments:

“We are thrilled by the news that Reza Khandan Mahabadi has been released from prison tonight, after being jailed on spurious charges since October, 2020. He has been a steadfast defender of the right to free expression for decades, and should never have been denied his freedom as punishment for his writings and peaceful advocacy work. As we celebrate his release, we reiterate our call for all those unjustly jailed in Iran for their free expression to be released unconditionally.”

A leading member of the Iranian Writers Association (IWA), the prolific author and researcher was given a six-year prison term in 2019 and has been in jail (with a brief period of release on medical parole) since October 2020. He was honored with the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in October 2021, alongside Baktash Abtin and Keyvan Bajan. PEN America filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on his case, alongside several jailed IWA colleagues; in its December 2022 ruling, the UN found that their detention was unjust and violated their human rights and international law, and ordered that Mahabadi be immediately released.

PEN America’s 2021 Freedom to Write Index shows that Iran jailed the fourth highest number of writers and public intellectuals in the world. In 2022, arrests of writers and other artists have spiked dramatically. More about PEN America’s advocacy work on Iran and about Reza Khandan Mahabadi’s case can be found here.

About PEN America

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. Learn more at pen.org.

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