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Iranian Writer Honored with Prestigious Award: Ismail Khoi Receives Hellman/Hammett Grant

7/29/03 (New York, July 29, 2003) - The Iranian writer Ismail Khoi is one of a diverse group of 28 writers from 13 countries to receive a Hellman/Hammett grant in recognition of the courage with which he has faced political persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.

Each year, Human Rights Watch presents Hellman/Hammett grants to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989 when executors of the estate of American playwright Lillian Hellman asked Human Rights Watch to design a program in her name and that of her long-time companion the novelist Dashiell Hammett to provide assistance to writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views. This year's grants totaled $170,000.

In many countries, governments use military and presidential decrees and criminal libel and sedition laws to silence critics, often on fabricated charges. Writers and journalists are threatened, harassed, assaulted, indicted, jailed, or tortured merely for providing information from nongovernmental sources. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many others are forced to practice self-censorship.

Ismail Khoi, poet and essayist, was one of the first university lecturers suspended when the government of Iran instituted a cleansing and rebuilding of Iranian universities after the 1979 revolution. When his colleague Saeed Soltanpoor was executed, Mr. Khoi realized that his own life was at risk. He spent two years in hiding and then fled to England. Over the past decade he has chronicled life in exile and courageously spoken out for freedom of speech and in defense of Salman Rushdie, Saidi-Sirjani, and Taslima Nasrin. The Iranian government has banned his books and prohibits even mention of his name in the country's mass media.

For more information, please contact:
In New York, Marcia Allina: +1-212-216-1246

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