Open up the public space: solidarity with Egyptian writers’ protest

Over 500 Egyptian writers and artists have signed a statement in solidarity with novelist and journalist Ahmed Naji, who was recently sentenced to 2 years in prison after prosecutors claimed a chapter of his novel published in literary magazine Akhbar al-Adab “offends modesty”.

Read the Egyptian writers’ and artists’ statement below, and add your own name to the following letter in support:

Authors, artists, and editors in Egypt have rallied to support novelist Ahmed Naji. On Saturday, February 20, a criminal court sentenced Naji to two years in prison for “harming public morality.” The case was brought against Naji when an excerpt of his novel, “Using Life,” was published in literary journal Akhbar el Adab. Our colleagues in Egypt have not confined their concern to issues of freedom of artistic expression but are voicing their alarm at “the many violations committed by the organs of the state” which they warn will “lead to catastrophic conflicts” that Egypt “cannot sustain”. We applaud their courage and sincerely hope that the government of Egypt heeds their warning and, in the first instance, releases Ahmed Naji.”

Add your name here: Solidarity with Egyptian writers’ and artists’ protest over jailing of novelist Ahmed Naji

First name Last name Occupation Country
AbdelAziz Hussein Capacity Building Officer Egypt
Abdurahman Katamish   Egypt
Adam Talib Asst. Professor Egypt
Ahdaf Soueif Writer Egypt
Ahmad Abdalla Film Maker Egypt
Aida Seif El Dawla Prof of Psychiatry, Ain Shams Univ., retired Egypt
Alex Parrs Academic Egypt
Alia Saleh Freelancer Egypt
Alice Stevenson Educator US
Allison McManus research director United States
Amina Rachid Universitaire Egypt
Amy Elshazly Producer / CM USA
Anna Simmons nhs uk
Anne Alexander Researcher UK
atef bedair east cairo egypt
Bárbara Azaola   España
Benjamin Koerber assistant professor  
Berta Joubert-Ceci psychiatrist USA
Bianca longhi translator Italy
Boucherit Aziza Maître de conférences France
Brooke Palmer Writer USA
Candice Ulgheri Writer South Africa
Carrie Lee Retired USA
Caterina Pinto    
Chris Miller Translator United Kingdom
dalia ghorab   mexico
Dalia Mostafa Lecturer at Manchester University UK
Daniela Mastalli   Italy
Danièle Bruchet   France
David Renton Author and barrister UK
Deborah Eisele disabled United States
Diane Vogt-O’Connor Retired U.S.A.
Diego Sosa Student Puerto Rico
Donna Brooks Cashier USA
Doua Fatfat    
Ed Macdonald Writer Canada
Edin Bajramović Writer, novelist Bosnia and Herzegovina
Elena Cal   España
Enass Abdallah    
Engy Ahmed Student Egypt
Eric Chaumont Researcher CNRS France
Evelina Santangelo Writer Italian
Faiza Rady    
Fausto الناشر Giudice جيوديشي Publisher الناشر Tunisia تونس
Fred Mecklenburg   U.S.
Gilgi Hauser Yoga/business Israel
Hadeer Elmahdawy journalist Egypt
Hami حمید Beheschti بهشتی Berlin Germany
Hannah Morcos    
Helen O’Mara Lawyer Ireland
Hisham Saqr    
Hoda El Mahdy non profit management Egypt
Hosam El Sokkari Writer – Consultant Egypt
Hossam Abdalla Fertility Doctor UK
Ian Alan Paul University Lecturer USA
Iman Mersal Writer Canada
Jerome O’Leary Bookseller Ireland
Joseph Piette Photojournalist United States
Karim Ismail    
Kay Leitch Writer and Editor United Kingdom
Kinza Khan Medicine UAE
Lana Barkawi Executive and Artistic Director, Mizna (A forum for Arab American film, literature, and art) United States
Leah Entenmann   US
Likhita Banerji Student India
Linda Herrera Professor US
Lori Bednar Copy Editor US
Lucia Sorbera Academic Australia
Luisa Brehm   Portugal
mahmoud omar human france
Mahmoud Salem writer egypt
Mahmoud Soliman   Egypt
Mai El-Sadany Lawyer United States
manel khedim student Tunisia
Manel Msalmi Researcher /writer Belgium
Manuela Helmecke   Germany
Marcia Lynx Qualey Writer/editor United States
Marianne Roux   France
Marianne Thorndahl Operations Manager UK
Martha Gendy    
Mauro Saccol PhD student Italy
Max Rodenbeck Bureau Chief India
Mei Wan Chang   Malaysia
Michael Schmidt Publisher United Kingdom
Michelle Obeid University Lecturer United Kingdom
Mina Wesselink Producer Qatar
Mohamed Sallam   Egypt
Mona Ali Retired engineer Egypt
Mona Baker Professor of Translation Studies United Kingdom and Egypt
Muhammad El Quessny    
Nadia Kamel FilmMaker Egypt
naila silarbi   Canada
Naim Kassar Lawyer Australia
Nancy Lewerenz   Germany
Nicola Pratt University Lecturer UK
Nora Shalaby Archaeologist Egypt
nour eldeen hasan   Egypt
Nouran Nabil Student Egypt
Omar Said Journalist Egypt
Paola Caridi Writer, journalist Italy
Patrizia Rosa Rosa retiree Italy
Peter Snowdon Filmmaker UK/Belgium
Pit Becker Visual artist germany
Prisca Destro   Italy
Rafik Semaan   Egypt
Raihana Husain    
Rasha El-Ibiary Univ prof Egypt
Renaud Chavanne Auteur France
Ricardo Dominguez Human Artivist Teacher U.S.A.
Richard Jacquemond Professor, researcher, translator France
Romina Sommadossi    
Rosemary Neidenberg retired United States
rossella rispoli   Italia
Salma Amer    
Salma El Noshokaty Contributing writer at and Marketing Consultant Egypt
Salma El Wardany Journalist Egypt
salma shash    
Sandra Soli Poet and writer USA
Sara Alsherif Researcher Egypt
Shadi El-Hosseiny Translator Egypt
Shane Seaber    
Sharif Abdel Kouddous Journalist Egypt
Sheba Thayil Writer India
Sherif Azer Human Rights Activist Egypt
Silvia Ricchieri development worker Italia
Sister Leslie Tucker A Religious [Nun] USA
Soha mohsen   egypt
Stefan Winkler   Germany
Stephanie Lawson   United States
Stephen Perkins Art historian, curator, artist usa
Sultan Al Qassemi Columnist UAE
Suneela Mubayi Phd student, arabic literature Usa/ india
Susanne Mayer Librarian Switzerland
Tamer Hamdy Creative director Egypt
Tamir ElSahy Quality Evaluator USA
Tarek Nasr Digital Media Egypt
Tia Anasuya Chef France
WJ Dorman Researcher/Teacher UK
Yasmin Hossam el din Lawyer Egypt
Yasmine El Rashidi Writer Egypt
Yasmine Zohdy   Egypt
Yasser Abdel- Hafez novelist and journalist Egypt
Yesim Diriker    
Youssef Rahman   The Netherlands
إيناس مرزوق مونتيرة تونس
بسمة الحسيني مديرة ثقافية مصر
سلمى عقل   القاهرة
طارق ابوالنجا معمارى مصر
هشام جبر مستثمر بقطاع السياحة مصر

Open Up the Public Space: Egyptian Writers’ and Artists’ Statement Against the Imprisonment of Novelist Ahmed Naji

We, the undersigned, have been following with anxiety the continued deterioration in the performance of the organs of the State, the increase of oppressive practices, the attacks on public, personal, academic and artistic freedoms and the string of incidents that embarrass the country in front of the international community – at a time when Egypt badly needs to be part of this community.

Our sense of responsibility towards this country inspires us now with a great fear for its future in the shadow of a regime that deals with freedoms with such ignorant nonchalance, that privileges a discourse of oppression mouthing terms like “morality” while emptying them – by its actions – of all meaning, that violates the Constitution every day.

In this context comes the sentencing of novelist and journalist, Ahmed Naji, to 2 years in prison, because a chapter of his novel appeared in a literary magazine, after a multi-armed attack on a number of writers and journalists because of their opinions. This betrays a total disregard for the Constitution of 2014 -approved in a people’s referendum – which explicitly forbids custodial sentences in cases related to publishing or works of art.

Our defence of Naji, and others persecuted and under attack, is not just a defence of the right of creative artists and opinion-holders to express their opinions – whatever they are and in whatever language they choose – without fear, it is not just in support of the community of writers or intellectuals; it is rather to raise the alarm about the terrible and terrifying path taken by the regime, a path that leads the entire country towards the abyss, through “assassinating” the public space of expression and confiscating the political space.

Our message is clear: blocking, prohibiting, killing politics, giving a free hand to extremist forces and turning a blind eye to the many violations committed by the organs of the state – will all lead to catastrophic conflicts our country cannot sustain.

Abd el-Hakam Salman

Adam Mekkewi

Adel el-Siwi (artist)

Adel Wasili (artist)

Ahdaf Soueif (writer)

Ahmad Abd el-Latif (writer)

Ahmad el-Labbad (artist)

Ahmad Kheir

Ahmad Megahed (former head General Egyptian Book Organisation)

Ahmad Samir (writer)

Ala el-Aswani (writer)

Alaa Khaled (writer)

Ali Badrakhan (Director)

Asmaa Yaseen

Bassam Murtadi

Bassem Sharaf (writer)

Bassem Youssef (media)

Emad Abu Ghazi (academic and former Minister of Culture)

Esam el-Sayyed (director)

Gamila Ismail (media)

Hajjaj Adoul (writer)

Hala Lotfi (director)

Hasan Sharshar

Ibrahim Abd el-Meguid (writer)

Ibrahim el-Sayyed (poet)

Ihab Abdel-Hamid (writer)

Magdi Ahmad Ali (director)

Mamoud Abd el-Fattah (lawyer)

Mona Hala

Mona Seif

Muhammad Abd el-Fattah /Kalabala (director)

Muhammad Halim Barakat (writer)

Muhammad Hashem (publisher)

Muhammad Hosni Abu-Ezz (writer)

Muhammad Kheir (writer)

Muhammaed el-Adl

Rami Yehya (writer) Amira al-Adham (poet)

Rana el-Tonsi (poet)

Sayyed Hijab (poet)

Sayyed Mahmoud (writer)

Shaban Youssef (writer)

Wael el-Semari (poet)

Zein el-Abedeen Khayri (poet)

And over five hundred other writers and artists, read the full list in Arabic here