Nobel, Pulitzer and Tony winners call for release of Iranian writers

A letter, addressed to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, called for the release of Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, imprisoned in Iran for their writing.

 Iranian Americans rally against Ebrahim Raisi outside the United Nations headquarters during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York, US, September 21, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)
Iranian Americans rally against Ebrahim Raisi outside the United Nations headquarters during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York, US, September 21, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)

A respectable list of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer prize recipients, Tony-winning playwrights and best-selling authors signed a letter demanding the release of three Iranian writers imprisoned by the Islamic Republic, PEN America said on Tuesday.

The letter, addressed to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, called for the release of Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, imprisoned in Iran for their writing.

The three were each sentenced to six years in prison in May 2019 on collusion against national security and propaganda charges. Following an appeal process, they began their sentence in September 2020.

Poet and filmmaker Abtin, novelist and journalist Bajan and author Khandan Mahabadi are all set to be honored with the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in October.

Meryl Streep at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show in Beverly Hills, California, US, January 8, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)Meryl Streep at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards show in Beverly Hills, California, US, January 8, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)

Among those who signed the letter are actor and actress Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep, authors such as John Green, Margaret Atwood, Jennifer Egan and Khaled Hosseini, composer Stephen Sondheim and dozens more.

"It is high time the Iranian state respects the free expression rights of Iranian writers, poets, and thinkers," the letter read.

"We call on you, President Raisi, to end the unjust imprisonments of Baktash Abtin, Keyvan Bajan, and Reza Khandan Mahabadi, and to release all those jailed in Iran for exercising their freedom to write," they added.

PEN America is a New York-based NPO dedicated to defending free speech in literature and arts around the world.