(New York, NY) – In response to news that Rouhollah Zam, an exiled Iranian dissident and former journalist, has been arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in what the IRGC referred to as a “sophisticated and professional operation” to “guide” him into the country, PEN America Free Expression at Risk Programs Director Karin Karlekar released the following statement:

“The reported detention of Rouhollah Zam is another case of the Iranian government silencing and punishing any form of dissent, as reflected by the widespread recent crackdown on journalists, activists, and creative artists in Iran. But his capture also seems to exemplify the growing practice of extra-territorial actions against dissidents by authoritarian states, as in the outrageous murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, just over a year ago. Zam’s case is, sadly, an inevitable consequence of the international community’s failure to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi’s murder, leaving the door open for other authoritarian regimes to punish dissidents even outside their borders.

“The lack of any information provided by the Iranian government concerning the details of how Zam ended up in IRGC custody further reveals the country’s disregard for due process. The world deserves answers as to how Zam apparently went from exile in France to Iranian custody, and the Iranian government should either provide evidence of Zam’s alleged crimes, or immediately release him.”


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: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892