Wednesday, May 6, 1998
Ordibehesht 16, 1377
PEN: Faraj Sarkuhi leaves Iran
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 6, 1998
DISSIDENT WRITER AND PEN HONORARY MEMBER, FARAJ SARKOUHI, LEAVES IRAN AFTER SERVING PRISON TERM
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Diana Ayton-Shenker tel. (212) 334-1660 [w]; fax (212) 334-2181
PEN welcomes the arrival of Faraj Sarkouhi "the former editor-in-chief of Adineh, a leading Iranian socioliterary journal" in Germany where he joins his family today after an eighteen-month ordeal.
The last time he tried to reunite with his family was on November 3, 1996, when he disappeared from Tehran's Mehrabad Airport while waiting to board a plane to Berlin. PEN promptly released an open letter to the Government of Iran requesting an account of Sarkouhi's whereabouts, while the official Iranian press insisted that Sarkouhi had flown to Germany.
Two weeks later, PEN received information indicating that Sarkouhi had in fact been kidnapped. On December 20, Sarkouhi reappeared at a press conference in Tehran, where he was forced to claim that he had been visiting Germany but had trouble substantiating his claims of having traveled.
On January 3, 1997, Sarkouhi wrote a long letter to his wife revealing the true account of events which he asked her to publish in the event of his re-arrest. In it, he said he had never left Iran, rather was subjected to an intensive interrogation which included beatings and death threats. He was arrested again and held in pre-trial detention for approximately nine months. PEN publicized his letter globally.
He was sentenced in September 1997, to a one-year prison term on trumped up charges of "slandering the Islamic Republic", beginning retroactively from the date of his arrest on January 27, 1997. After persistent international pressure from PEN and others, Sarkouhi was freed from prison on the scheduled date of release. This time, PEN issued an appeal urging President Khatami for his personal intervention in facilitating the return to Sarkouhi of his passport and to uphold Sarkouhi's right to travel abroad.
Faraj Sarkouhi was signatory to the "1994 Declaration of 134 Iranian Writers," a document that PEN circulated around the globe calling for an end to all censorship of literary endeavor in Iran. To support this initiative, PEN American Center spearheaded a major campaign of solidarity marked by a public reading of the declaration by Arthur Miller at the PEN International Congress in Prague. This campaign was intensified after Sarkouhi's arrest and led by an international group of prominent members including Edward Albee, Paul Auster, Nadine Gordimer, Gunter Grass, Yasar Kemal, Edward Said, Michael Scammell.
PEN reiterated throughout the last year and a half its belief that Faraj Sarkouhi is guilty of no internationally recognized crime, and urged the Iranian government to drop all charges, including "slander," against him, to release him immediately and unconditionally, and to allow him to leave Iran and rejoin his family.
PEN stands in firm solidarity with Mr. Sarkouhi, and all those who brave repression in pursuit of their literary and artistic goals. Following a dark year of imprisonment and isolation, Faraj Sarkouhi has emerged as a symbol for all those who champion free expression in Iran.
"We are thrilled that PEN's campaign has been so effective," said Diana Ayton-Shenker, Director of PEN's Freedom-to-Write Program, "and hope that Faraj is able to accept our invitation to visit the United States to share with us his insights into contemporary Iranian literary endeavor. "Until all Iranian writers are truly free, PEN will continue to appeal on their behalf and for the cause of Iranian literary culture," said Karen Kennerly, Executive Director of PEN, even as we savor the knowledge that Faraj is now free and safe.
PEN is an international fellowship of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened. For further information, contact Diana Ayton-Shenker at PEN at (212) 334-1660.
Copyright © 1997 Abadan Publishing Co. All Rights Reserved. May not be duplicated or distributed in any form.