At the Pen America gala, Jodie Foster, Awkwafina, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Wole Soyinka, along with artists and intellectuals from New York, demanded the release of three imprisoned Iranian writers on Tuesday night, writes AFP.
This gala evening, the first after 18 months of pandemic in New York, was largely dedicated to “Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan and Réza Khandan Mahabadi, three authors imprisoned by the Iranian authorities for their writings, defense of freedom of expression and opposition to of state censorship, “according to the New York-based economic and cultural center of the United States.
At the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park, under the replica of a blue whale and dinosaur skeletons, 500 people attended the evening, typical of New York high society, in which funds were raised for a cause.
Pen America director Suzanne Nossel, who presented them with an award for “freedom of speech,” hailed “the courage of writers who force us to renew our collective promise to defend free societies.”
The three Iranians, who have been imprisoned for a year in Evin prison, responded in a letter read by playwright Lynn Nottage that “the prize belongs to all those persecuted in Iran and elsewhere.”
“Poet and filmmaker Abtin, novelist and journalist Bajan and writer and literary critic Khandan Mahabadi” were sentenced in May 2019 to 6 years in prison for false pursuits for propaganda and undermining national security, “Pen America said in a statement.
A petition against ultra-conservative Iranian President Ebrahim Raissi demanding the release of the three writers was signed by 370 artists and intellectuals, including Canadian author Margaret Atwood, Nobel Laureates in Literature, South African JM Coetzee and Turkish Orhan Pamuk, as well as American actors Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
Pen America’s annual gala is part of a series of reruns of major philanthropic, cultural evenings that have built New York’s historic reputation until the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.
The Pen America Evening was presented this year by American actress and director Jodie Foster, Chinese-born rap actress and singer Awkwafina, 1986 Nigerian Nobel Laureate in Literature Wole Soyinka, Puerto Rican-born New York actor and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Two California caregivers, Mimi Khin Hall and Gail Newel, who are battling the coronavirus but said they are the target of threats and pressure from misinformation about the pandemic, were also awarded by Pen America.
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