(GENEVA) — PEN America joins a coalition of Iranian and international human rights organizations calling on the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to extend the mandate of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFMI). The FFMI’s inaugural report, released on March 8, documents grave human rights violations committed by Iranian authorities since the start of the Woman Life Freedom movement in September 2022.

In a joint letter sent to Member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the coalition also demanded that the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran be renewed, stressing the value of the “two distinct and complementary mandates… essential for the Council to fulfill its mandate of promotion and protection of human rights in Iran.”

“The Iranian government’s persistent, brutal persecution of those who dare express opinions that challenge the government must end. When actions as simple as writing a poem, posting on Instagram, or singing a song result in long prison sentences based on vague and undefined laws, it is a clear sign that a government is in grave disaccord with its people. By monitoring and reporting on the severe rights violations and crimes committed, the FFMI and the special rapporteur can help galvanize global solidarity in support of the Iranian people,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of PEN America’s Writers at Risk program.

PEN America invited two recently exiled Iranian dissidents to Geneva this week to help support advocacy during the UNHRC sessions. Both are available for interviews (in English and Farsi):

  • Behnaz Amani, a writer and poet currently hosted as a fellow by PEN Germany, fled Iran in February of this year. Amani worked as an assistant professor of English literature at Azad University. During the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, she was vocal in calling for the release of students imprisoned and, as a result, was sent to prison for two months and banned from returning to her job.
  • Asal Abasian worked for over a decade for independent media outlets in Iran, including Shargh Daily and Andishe Pouya. Identifying as non-binary, Abasian’s reporting often focused on gender equality, and as a result, both Asal and their family were regularly threatened by government authorities. Today, they live in exile in Paris.

According to PEN America’s most recent Freedom To Write Index, at least 57 Iranian writers were arrested for their work in 2022, making Iran the second-highest jailer of writers in the world after China. 

A message from imprisoned Iranian writer, human rights activist, and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write awardee Narges Mohammadi was read aloud at today’s session of the Human Rights Council. Writing from Evin prison, Mohammadi called for extensions to the mandates of the Special Rapporteur and the FFMI, describing them as crucial steps on the path to justice and accountability for human rights violations in Iran. On December 10, 2023, Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia. PEN America continues to call for her immediate release.

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.

For interviews or further information, contact Dietlind Lerner, [email protected], +1 310 699 8777