(NEW YORK)—PEN America today welcomed the news that exiled Iranian singer, poet and activist Sahar Ajdamsani is invited to participate in this week’s Genoa International Poetry Festival, but noted its ongoing concerns for Ajdamsani’s safety. The award-winning artist and poet fled Iran last year due to fears she is at risk with Iranian authorities as a result of her collaboration with global artists on the song “Quarantine World.”

Ajdamsani fled to Iraq last October after receiving a summons from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence following the release of the song, which she wrote and performed in Farsi, along with global artists singing in 11 languages.

PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) has been working on her case since December to connect her with emergency funds and residency opportunities. Iran is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for writers and artists, with targeted efforts to silence and intimidate dissenting voices, and since its inception in 2017, ARC receives more requests from Iranian artists than from any other country. According to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index for 2021, Iran is the fourth-worst jailer of writers around the world.

“At only 26 years old, Sahar is an incredibly talented and courageous artist and activist who has dared to use her voice to call for peace and advocate for human rights – despite coming from a country where women are not allowed to be artists. She has put her life and freedom at risk by freely expressing her belief in human rights and solidarity with artists worldwide who are devoted to the cause of freedom and dignity for all,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection. “We are delighted that her talent is being recognized with this invitation to Genoa, yet remain quite concerned about her safety and her rights to free expression as she remains exiled from her Iranian homeland.”

Ajdamsani is an internationally recognized artist with 376k followers on Instagram. She has published two volumes of poetry and in 2019, she became the first Iranian to win the international WILDsound Poetry Festival with her poem “Censorship,” which focuses on women’s rights.

In 2021, Ajdamsani spearheaded the production and release of “Quarantine World,” a collaborative song between 11 nations, languages and artists, including English, Persian, German, Kurdish, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Hindi and Greek. Ajdamsani wrote the song and sings the Persian section. “Quarantine World” explores the losses and struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic and offers a message of hope and solidarity for the future, with lyrics such as “We’ve stayed at home so much & the house feels tighter than it ever was / It seems the walls are closing in on me / People are afraid, afraid of each other / We should be healing one another / What ever happened on mother earth, my sisters & brothers.” She is now compiling an album to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and express solidarity with Ukrainains whose lives have been irrevocably altered by the war.

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 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.