PEN America honors jailed Iranian writers at 2021 gala

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New York (AFP)

Nonprofit PEN America paid tribute to three jailed Iranian writers on Tuesday at its annual gala featuring actors Jodie Foster and Awkwafina.

The literature and human rights organization awarded Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan and Reza Khandan Mahabadi the 2021 PEN / Barbey Freedom to Write Prize.

The trio are serving a combined 15-and-a-half-year prison sentence for their involvement in the Iranian Writers Association (IWA), an anti-censorship group.

PEN honored them at a star-studded gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City after last year’s event was held virtual due to the pandemic.

“They are writers who are called not only to deliver prose and ideas on a page, but to live fearlessly and sacrifice immensely in the service of the freedoms that underpin free thought, art, culture and creativity, ”said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN. a press release before the event.

Abtin, poet and screenwriter, novelist and journalist Bajan, and Mahabadi, author and literary critic, have been imprisoned in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran since September of last year.

American actress Awkwafina attends the Pen America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on October 5, 2021 in New York City Angela Weiss AFP

Abtin and Mahabadi contracted coronavirus there and did not receive appropriate hospital treatment for other illnesses, according to PEN.

Some 800 guests attended the gala, which is typically the highlight of New York’s literary calendar.

“The Farewell” star Awkwafina hosted the event while Foster and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka helped present the prizes.

The gala is the latest New York cultural highlight to return after the pandemic following last month’s Met Gala.

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