(NEW YORK)— Poet Galal El-Behairy, who has been arbitrarily detained for five years by Egypt, last week announced that he would be escalating his hunger strike in Badr Prison by refusing to drink water starting on Thursday (6/1). Egyptian authorities arrested El-Behairy in March 2018, and in March 2023 he began a hunger strike to protest five years of arbitrary detention. PEN America joins PEN International and other PEN Centers in continuing to call for his immediate and unconditional release.

“Five years of arbitrary detention for nothing other than writing poetry and song lyrics has brought Galal El-Behairy to a point where his life is potentially in critical danger, and the Egyptian government, who hasimprisoned him, must bear ultimate responsibility for his health and safety. Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Galal and stop jailing poets, writers, and others behind bars for their peaceful expression. PEN America and its members and supporters stand in solidarity with Galal El-Behairy, and we reiterate our call for his immediate freedom,” said Justin Shilad, Middle East and North Africa lead with PEN America’s PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write Center.

Galal El-Behairy is one of 10 writers behind bars in Egypt according to PEN America’s 2022 Freedom to Write Index, which ranks Egypt eighth on its list of top 10 countries of concern.

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. To learn more visit PEN.org

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057