NEW YORK—In response to reports that Saudi writer-activist and 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honoree Eman Al-Nafjan has been released temporarily, PEN America released the statement below: 

“PEN America is overjoyed at news that one of our designated 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honorees, Saudi writer-activist Eman Al-Nafjan, has been released temporarily from prison.  Al-Nafjan was on trial this week with a group of women’s rights defenders who have been jailed and reportedly subject to torture because of their outspokenness in challenging the country’s repressive laws. Reports indicate that Al-Nafjan and two other women have been released for the time being, and that Saudi officials have indicated that further releases may be forthcoming. PEN America is proud to be spotlighting Al-Nafjan’s case and that of two other Saudi writer-activists, Loujain Al-Hathloul and Nouf Abdulaziz, helping to fuel the international outcry over the baseless prosecutions of these brave women. The fact that the proceedings against Al-Nafjan and other defendants are being carried out in secrecy makes it difficult to determine whether todays’ good news represents a definitive turn in the case. We demand that all charges against Al-Nafjan, Al-Hathloul and Abdulaziz and others similarly accused be dropped, and these women be immediately freed to continue their writing and work freely. The PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award has for decades been a powerful tool to pry free courageous writers who take the greatest risks in order to express themselves. While powerful governments often seem immune to outrage from writers, activists and rights defenders, today’s news offers a ray of hope that even the world’s most repressive governments are not impervious to the call of justice.”


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: [email protected]