2023 PEN Canada Empty Chair


The Creative Nonfiction Collective 2023 Annual Conference will host an “empty chair” for  imprisoned Iranian writer and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi. PEN believes Ms. Mohammadi has been arbitrarily detained in Shahr-e Rey prison (also known as Qarchak) in the city of Varamin, as punishment for her public campaigning against the use of solitary confinement in Iran’s prisons and for seeking accountability for hundreds of unlawful killings during nationwide protests in November 2019.

Narges Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist, human rights defender, and Honorary Member of the Danish, Belgian, Norwegian, and Swedish PEN centres. She is the former Vice-President and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), co-winner of the 2013 Oxfam Novib / PEN Award, and winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize and the 2009 Alexander Langer Award.

Ms. Mohammadi has been repeatedly targeted and arrested by the Iranian authorities since 2009. Released after serving eight years of a previous sentence in October 2020, less than six months later an Iranian court again convicted her of alleged propaganda and defamation charges, and sentenced her to 30 months in prison, 80 lashes, and a fine. 

Mohammadi was taken into custody in November 2021 while attending a memorial ceremony. While serving out her new sentence at Qarchak Prison, she has endured prolonged solitary confinement and intensive psychological torture, in January 2022 Mohammadi was handed an additional sentence of eight years in prison and 70 lashes. After a brief medical furlough to undergo heart surgery in February, she was rearrested on April 12 and sent back to prison. 

Since her rearrest, her husband has reported that prison authorities have deliberately withheld her medications, exacerbating her serious health issues and even resulting in a brief hospitalization in June. Despite these challenges, Mohammadi has continued to speak out and write from prison, expressing support for the protests that swept Iran in late 2022 and fearlessly highlighting the abuse of fellow prisoners behind bars.

You can learn more about how to support Ms. Mohammadi at PEN Canada


Like us on Facebook
Join the conversation on Twitter
Follow us on Instagram