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IRAN: End the persecution of Mahvash Sabet

May 20, 2023 IN WIP
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Iran: authorities must end the persecution of Mahvash Sabet and ensure access to adequate medical care pending her release


PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres are outraged to learn that writer and poet Mahvash Sabet was brutally tortured during her interrogation in August 2022 at Evin prison, resulting in both her kneecaps being broken. PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres are gravely concerned about Mahvash Sabet’s health and well-being and strongly condemn the persistent and deliberate medical negligence against writers and other prisoners of conscience in Iran.

We urge the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mahvash Sabet on medical furlough and demand that she receives immediate, appropriate, and adequate medical care pending her release. We further call for an independent, transparent, and prompt investigation into her torture. 

PEN International has recieved information from reliable sources that prominent Baha’i poet Mahvash Sabet has been suffering for months from broken kneecaps resulting from torture that she has been subjected to while in detention. The authorities have not provided her with adequate medical care and are subjecting her to deplorable detention conditions. PEN International has also learned that she had been repeatedly interrogated over the content of her unpublished book in which she details her previous prison experiences.

PEN International has previously raised concerns over Sabet’s health and the deliberate medical negligence by the Iranian authorities. We have recieved information that she has difficulties breathing following recurrent Covid-19 infections from which she has not fully recovered.

Further, Iranian authorities have also persecuted her family, forcibly evicting them from their property earlier this week. The Baha’i community are heavily persecuted by the authorities in Iran, with examples including the arrest of Baha’i activists and the seizing and demolishing their homes and properties. PEN International had previously highlighted the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community and the arrest of Iranian activists Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naemi, members of the long-disbanded “Yaran-i-Iran” or “Friends of Iran”, who, along with Sabet, helped to administer Baha’i community’s affairs in Iran until 2008.


Arrested in July 2022, Mahvash Sabet was sentenced to ten years in prison in November 2022 following a grossly unfair trial. She faced trumped-up charges and has been denied access to legal counsel.

Sabet is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran; the second decade-long sentence she has been handed by the Iranian authorities in violation of her right to freedom of expression. Since her arrest, Sabet has reportedly been held in solitary confinement and denied contact with her family for prolonged periods.

Mahvash Sabet began her professional career as a teacher and worked as a principal at several schools. She also collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. Following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Sabet was fired from her job and blocked from working in public education, like thousands of other Iranian Baha’i educators. She served for 15 years as director of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Baha’i youth.

She began writing poetry in prison, and a collection of her prison poems was translated into English and published in 2013. Sabet is an honorary member of Austrian PEN and Danish PEN and was awarded English PEN’s 2017 International Writer of Courage. PEN International has campaigned for her release and featured her case in PEN’s 2014 Day of the Imprisoned Writer campaign.



For more details on Mahvash Sabet’s case, please visit our website (here)

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International