International Writing Program participating in Worldwide Reading for Ashraf Fayadh

Reading for Ashraf Fayadh

Shambaugh House — Thursday, January 14 at Noon

Ashraf Fayadh
Poet Fayadh was sentenced to death for apostasy in November. — photo via his Instagram account.

As part of an initiative sponsored by the International Literature Festival Berlin, the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) will be hosting a reading in support of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who is currently in prison and under threat of death penalty in his adopted home of Saudi Arabia. He was sentenced to death in Nov. for apostasy, in addition to being found guilty of blasphemy and “promoting atheism,” for his 2008 poetry collection Instructions Within. The IWP will be joined in this effort locally by the UI Center for Human Rights and the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization; other literary organizations worldwide will be participating as well.

The International Literature Festival Berlin sponsors readings like this each year, to raise awareness and offer solidarity in the face of threats to justice and freedom. Past events have included a Worldwide Reading Commemorating the Centenary of the Armenian Genocide last April, and a Worldwide Reading for Edward Snowden in 2014.

Their call to action for this event challenges “all individuals, institutions, schools and media outlets that care about justice and freedom to participate in a worldwide reading of selected poems and other texts in support of Ashraf Fayadh.” They note that the 35-year-old “was denied access to a lawyer throughout his detention and trial,” and call on Western governments and the United Nations to “pressur[e] Saudi Arabia to raise its human rights standards.”

Anyone who would like to participate by reading one of Fayadh’s texts at Thursday’s event is asked to email the IWP. The public is also invited to listen to the readings and offer their support for Fayadh through their presence there. Shambaugh House is located at 430 N. Clinton St., Iowa City.

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