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Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards celebrate writers against the odds

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Oxfam Novib/PEN Awards are an annual event to recognise writers who have been persecuted for their work and continue working despite the consequences. A collaboration between PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, the PEN Emergency Fund and Oxfam Novib, winners of the annual Awards receive a certificate and a cash prize of 2,500 euros.

Iranian journalist, blogger and activist Asieh Amini received the Oxfam Novib / PEN Award in a ceremony on 19 January 2012 at the Spui Theatre in The Hague as part of the Writers Unlimited Winter Nights Festival. Asieh Amini left Iran in 2007 after being incarcerated in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for five days for her protests against the imprisonment of a fellow activist. She currently lives in exile in Norway, under the International Cities of Refuge Network program, where she continues to speak out against social injustice and to write poetry and non-fiction. She is also active in the 'Stop Stoning Forever Campaign', which monitors incidences of stoning in Iran, reports them and collects evidence.

Five others received the Oxfam/PEN Award: Mexican journalist and writer Jesús Lemus Barajas; Russian journalist Mikhail Bekhetof; Moroccan newspaper editor Rachid Nini; and (jointly) Sudanese newspaper founder and editor Alhaj Warrag and columnist Abdul Moniem Suleman. These writers have suffered violence, imprisonment and impunity for their peaceful work and resistance. Rachid Nini is currently in prison in Morocco.

Tom Van Der Lee, director of advocacy and campaigns at Oxfam Novib, said of the Awards: "Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are crucial human rights. Courageous people, all over the world, use these rights as catalysts for change towards a just world, without poverty. That's why Oxfam Novib supports PEN International. And that's why it's important to internationally recognise and honour courageous champions of free speech and daring journalism with the Oxfam Novib / PEN Award."

Last year's winners of the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award were Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, Azerbaijani journalist Sakit Zahidov, Turkish journalist Nedem Sener and Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam.

See PEN's events page for more information about the 19 January event
To watch an interview with prize winner Abdul Moniem Suleman click here
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