Free Expression in Iran
Despite its rich cultural and literary traditions, Iran is among the world’s most restrictive countries for freedom of expression. While the human rights situation has been dire for decades, the state of free expression and respect for fundamental rights has deteriorated even further in recent years, placing Iran among the top jailers of writers and public intellectuals globally. The 2021 presidential election of Ebrahim Raisi, who has credibly been accused of involvement in mass killings of political prisoners in the 1980s, signaled yet another move toward escalating repression.
Iran remains notorious for a judicial system completely lacking in transparency, under which arbitrary arrests are commonplace and lengthy sentences are handed out without due process. Hundreds of political prisoners languish behind bars as authorities withhold critical care and medical attention, putting their lives in great danger and sometimes leading to death. The Iranian government has also been engaged in the targeting and transnational kidnapping of dissidents, writers, and journalists outside the country, as well as the harassment of prisoners’ family members inside the country.
Numerous women who question gender-based restrictions or secularists who propose reform of the current theocratic system are charged with “national security” or “propaganda” crimes. Likewise, Kurds fostering cultural preservation through the celebration of the Kurdish language are consistently met with government retaliation in the form of propaganda or blasphemy charges. In spite of this, Iran’s writers and artists remain steadfast in opposing censorship, pushing back against the boundaries on expression, and fostering a vibrant literary community.
Arrest of Actress, Activist, Translator Taraneh Alidoosti is Another Blatant Effort to Suppress Human Rights in IranDecember 18, 2022
PEN America Condemns Execution of Iranian Activist Mohsen Shekari After Conviction for Participation in ProtestsDecember 10, 2022
PEN America and PEN Sydney Condemn Arrests of 3 More Iranian Writers, as Iran Continues Crackdown on Free Expression Targeting Writers and ArtistsDecember 6, 2022
Take Action for Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi
This year, PEN America is honoring imprisoned Iranian writers Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi with the 2021 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. All three writers have been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for their writing, their defense of free expression, and their peaceful opposition to state censorship. Join PEN America in calling for their release now.
Communication to the UN Commission on the Status of Women on the Persecution of Iranian Women's Rights Defenders
Learn More About Writers at Risk Globally
During 2020, according to data collected for PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, Iran jailed at least 19 writers and public intellectuals, the fourth-highest number in the world, in connection with their writing, their work, or related activism. Globally, 35 countries—spanning all geographic regions—jailed at least 273 writers. The annual Freedom to Write Index has become an essential component of PEN America’s long-standing Writers at Risk Program, which encompasses support for and advocacy on behalf of writers under threat around the world.