NEW YORK—In response to reports today that Syrian writer Radwan Ziadeh had been denied political asylum in the United States as a result of organizing conferences with Syrian opposition groups, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel released the following statement:

“The decision to deny asylum to distinguished Syrian scholar, writer, and human rights activist Radwan Ziadeh is appalling. Ziadeh is a leading Washington-based Syrian dissident who has worked tirelessly for years to draw attention to his country’s conflict, provide policymakers and civil society with an informed perspective, and bring together individuals and groups to try to find solutions. Although his application for asylum was found to be meritorious, his exclusion was predicated on an ill-informed appraisal of meetings and conferences he convened to open dialogue to address the political and humanitarian crises of the Syrian Civil War. That the inclusion of groups well known to and, in some cases, supported by the U.S. government in these convenings could be construed as material support for terrorism is an infringement on freedom of association and freedom to impart and receive knowledge.  It creates a perverse disincentive to pursue peaceful, dialogue-based solutions to conflictIf this decision stands, the U.S. will be turning its back on an upstanding individual who has used the freedom and safety that are the foundations of our democracy to stand up against terror and to defend human rights.”


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 Coordinator:, +1 646.779.0685