(NEW YORK) – PEN America today condemned the arrest of Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani and called for her immediate and unconditional release. After posting a satirical cartoon on her Instagram earlier that day, Farghadani was summoned to Evin courthouse in Tehran on Wednesday and arrested. There has been no information about the grounds for her arrest or her whereabouts since Wednesday.

“Cartoonists should not be persecuted for their creative expression. We are deeply concerned for thewell being of Farghadani, whose arbitrary arrest is indicative of the Iranian authorities’ increasingly abusive attacks on pro-democracy artists, journalists, and activists. The lack of information surrounding Farghadani’s arrest is yet another illustration of the absolute disregard that the Iranian authorities hold for the rule of law, as well as their endless campaign to target and intimidate artists into silence,” said Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) Director Julie Trébault. “We call for Farghadani’s immediate release anddemand that all charges against her are dropped immediately.”

In August 2014, Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and 9 months imprisonment for “spreading ropaganda against the system,” “insulting members of the parliament through paintings,” and “gathering and colluding against national security.” The basis of her arrest and subsequent imprisonment was her artwork depicting Iranian parliamentarians as monkeys and goats in protest against two bills outlawing voluntary sterilization and inhibiting access to contraception. Due to public outcry and a joint letter calling for Farghadani’s immediate release and unjust arrest, an appeals court reduced her sentence to 18 months in April 2016. On May 3, 2016, Farghadani was released from Evin Prison.

Earlier this year, PEN America and ARC called on the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate emerging evidence of secret and deliberate attacks to suppress Iranian artists and other cultural figures during mass demonstrations that broke out in September 2022 following the death of Mahsa Amini in state custody.

According to PEN America’s recently released 2022 Freedom to Write Index—an annual count of imprisoned writers worldwide–Iran placed second, recording a significant increase in those jailed over the previous year with more than 39 cases. The report states that Iran imprisoned more than one-third of the total number of women writers jailed worldwide, indicative of the Iranian authorities’ efforts to suppress women human rights defenders. More about PEN America’s work on Iran can be found here.

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.