PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee observed the first Day of the Imprisoned Writer on November 15th, 1981. Since then, this day has been observed annually by all of the PEN centers throughout the world.
This event is integral to PEN Center USA’s mission of promoting literary culture, building a worldwide community of writers and thinkers, and preserving the freedom to write domestically and abroad. It is a day of mourning, one where we pause to consider the appalling fact that writers continue to struggle with harassment, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, violence, and even death when they exercise their fundamental right to self-expression. But it is also a day of action, when we recommit ourselves to fight for the day when all writers, everywhere, can write freely and openly on any topic without the least fear of reprisal.
Join PEN Center USA, and all of the PEN centers across the world, on November 15, 2013, in observing Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
In preparation for this day, we ask that you lend us your support by applying the graphics available on this page to your social media accounts to display our international unity against oppression of expression, read about the profiled writers on The Mark Blog, and help spread the word about censored, imprisoned, and otherwise abused writers around the world.
This year, we will focus our coverage on three writers whose freedom to write has been threatened by their governments. They are Enoh Mayamesse of Cameroon, Wajeha Al-Huwaider of Saudi Arabia, and Le Quac Quan of Vietnam.
Enoh Meyamesse, 57, is a writer, blogger, historian, and political activist who has published more than 15 books of poetry, prose, essays, and works on political and cultural themes, and is a founding member and president of the Cameroon Writers Association. On December 14, 2012, after 13 months in prison, Enoh Meyomesse was found guilty of theft and illegal sale of gold.
On December 27, 2012, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 200,000 CFA, as requested by the state prosecutor. No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and he was not allowed to testify in his own defense. According to Meymesse, he was sentenced "without any proof of wrong-doing on my part, without any witnesses, without any complainants, and, more than that, after having been tortured during 30 days by an officer of the military."
Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. A prominent Saudi Arabian author and journalist, Al-Huwaider wrote for the Arabic-language daily Al-Watan and the English-language daily Arab News.
In 2011 al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with kidnapping for attempting to help Nathalie Morin escape her abusive husband and go to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh. The charges were dropped due to the influence of a prominent politician in the region, but a year later al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were charged with the lesser crime of takhbib (inciting a separation between a husband and wife). On June 15, 2013 Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were convicted and sentenced to prison for ten months, with an additional two-year travel ban.
Lê Quốc Quân is a Vietnamese human rights lawyer, democracy activist, and prominent Catholic blogger. He was arrested by the Vietnamese government on charges of tax evasion on December 27, 2012, convicted on October 2, 2013, and sentenced to 30 months in prison. The arrest was condemned by international human rights organizations and the United States government.
Participate in Day of the Imprisoned Writer by creating awareness of the event on social media. Join the PEN Center USA team by downloading the following graphics and using them on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We encourage everyone to discuss topics pertaining to Day of the Imprisoned Writer on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Your support is what makes this day powerful.