International Women’s Day

English PEN

Writers in Prison Committee

8 March 2007 – International Women’s Day


On the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2007, English Pen would like to take the opportunity to highlight several recent cases of brave women who have faced persecution, harassment, threat and imprisonment for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. 

In Uzbekistan, journalist and human rights activist Umida Niyazova was imprisoned and is now awaiting her trial.. She was arrested on 22 January and charged with smuggling ‘subversive’ literature into Uzbekistan and illegally crossing the Uzbekistani border. There is little doubt that Niyazova is facing reprisals for her reporting on human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, especially the Andijan massacre of May 2005.  

A number of Turkish writers face increasing threats to their life in the aftermath of Hrant Dink’s murder. One of these is Perihan Mağden, who has been targeted for her journalistic opintions, such as her defense of the right to conscientious objection, as recognized by the United Nations. In April 2006, a warrant for her arrest was issued and Magden was charged with turning people against military service. She faced up to three years in prison. On 27 July 2006, Magden was tried and acquitted, but continues to be threatened because of her work.  

Ethiopian journalist Serkalem Fasil has been detained since November 2005, one of 20 journalists who were arrested after the publication of articles critical of the parliamentary elections in 2005. Held in the Katili prison, Fasil was forced to give birth to her premature son in a prison hospital, where he failed to receive proper care. There are some serious concerns over the conditions under which Fasil is detained.

In Vietnam, author and essayist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has faced constant harassment and been  repeatedly arrested for posting certain articles and essays on the Internet. As the editor of the dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland), she has had to face a “People’s Court” in Hanoi where people gathered to ridicule and humiliate her, with the police failing to provide protection. She now lives under house arrest and is banned from publishing on the Internet.

Tunisian Naziha Rjiba suffers relentless harassment because of her writings on the internet and the opinions she expresses on satellite TV. Rjiba is the editor of the Arabic language section of the on-line magazine Kalima, a human rights activist and the vice president of the Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation in Tunisia. Rjiba has been under surveillance and experienced physical, verbal and sexual abuse by Tunisian security forces, as they try to restrict her movements and activities.

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