International Women’s Day 2016

01 Mar 2016
International Women’s Day 2016

The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day, observed each year to reflect on the progress made for women’s rights, to call for change, and to honour those women who are agents of change at great personal risk and cost.

Over the years PEN International has used this day to highlight and campaign on cases of violence and intimidation against women writers. This year PEN International will mark this day by campaigning on behalf Mahvash Sabet, Narges Mohammadi and Fatima Naoot. Two of our three focus cases come from Iran as it has one of the highest numbers of women writers in prison anywhere in the world (six at the end of 2015).

Click on their names to find out more about each of the three cases:

Mahvash Sabet (Iran) is a teacher and poet, currently serving a 20-year prison sentence in Evin prison, Tehran. She is one of a group of seven Bahá’í leaders known as the ‘Yaran-i-Iran’ (‘Friends of Iran’) who have been detained since 2008 for their faith and activities related to running the affairs of the Bahá’í community in Iran.

Narges Mohammadi (Iran) is an independent journalist, former vice-president of Defenders of Human Rights Center and human rights defender who was arrested on May 2015 and put on trial on charges including ‘spreading propaganda against the system’. Her trial which was due to commence in May 2015 has been subject to repeated postponements. Mohammadi has a neurological disorder and there are grave concerns for her health and welfare.

Fatima Naoot (Egypt) is a poet and former political parliamentary candidate who was sentenced to three years imprisonment in January 2016 for contempt of religion, spreading sectarian strife, and disturbing public speech for a post she made on her Facebook page in October 2014, which criticised the tradition of slaughtering animals for Eid-al-Adha. Fatima will also be the Empty Chair on 8 March at the PEN Africa Network Regional meeting taking place next week in Johannasburg, South Africa.