Earlier this month, PEN American Center and PEN Canada sent an open letter signed by over 100 of the world’s most prominent writers -- among them Wole Soyinka, Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk, Don DeLillo, Ma Jian, Umberto Eco, and Nadine Gordimer -- calling for the release of Canadian-Iranian journalist and playwright Maziar Bahari, who has been held incommunicado in Tehran since June 21, 2009.
The letter expresses concern that Bahari’s detention reflects a wider crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran. “His continued detention casts serious doubt on Iran’s commitment to a free exchange of information and ideas and to international guarantees of freedom of the press,” the letter reads. “We urge you to release Mr. Bahari, and all others detained in connection with their post-election reporting in Iran, immediately and without condition.”
PEN has now compiled a resource page devoted to the goings-on in Iran; it includes, among many other things, the video below of the July 18 conversation featuring Shaul Bakhash, Roger Cohen, Haleh Esfandiari, and Karim Sadjadpour:
You should also check out, if you haven’t already, the online translation slam devoted to a political slogan which has been taken up by protesters in response to an insult levied at them by president Ahmadinejad -- a slogan that is based in part on a poem by Rumi.
In happier news, a United States appeals court reversed an earlier decision excluding the Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan from the United States. PEN is hopeful that the Obama administration will now act quickly to issue Ramadan a visa and permit him to visit the United States. In 2004, government officials cited a provision of the Patriot Act that bars entry to those who “endorse or espouse terrorism” as the reason for the cancelling Ramadan's visa. PEN and the ACLU went to court to challenge the cancellation, believing that Ramadan, an outspoken critic of U.S. policies in the Middle East, was being denied entry to the United States under post-9/11 policies that amounted to ideological exclusion.