(Syria, 1970), journalist and writer of novels, short stories, scripts and non-fiction, is a great champion of human and above all women's rights in Syria. Yazbek fled her country after openly resisting the regime and lives in exile in Paris. She has won many awards, including the Oxfam Novib PEN Award during 2013's Winternachten Festival. The Crossing (2015), about her secret return during the war in Syria, was awarded Best Foreign Book in France. Her personal stories uniquely illustrate the situation in that country. In 19 Women: Tales of resilience from Syria (2018), Yazbek focuses on the role of women during the revolution. Her upcoming De Blauwe Pen (The Blue Pen) is a lively, poetic novel about a Syrian girl who cannot stop running through the middle of the insanity of the war.(WN 2020)
Archive available for: Samar Yazbek
The evening programme will be opened by poet Asha Karami. Her performance will be followed by the introduction of the Free the Word!-speech by PEN International Chair Jennifer Clement. The speech, with a focus on the freedom of expression, will be held by Syrian writer and journalist Samar Yazbek.
Yazbek, born in Jableh, Syria, is the recipient of the PEN Pinter award, the PEN Tucholsky award, and the PEN Oxfam Novib Award for her book A Woman in the Crossfire (2011). Her book The Crossing received the 2016 Best Foreign Book award in France. Her books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and in 2018 Yazbek was shortlisted for the Prix Femina for her novel, La marcheuse, that was recently published in Dutch translation as De blauwe pen by Orlando Uitgevers in collaboration with Oxfam Novib.
The prestigious Oxfam Novib PEN Award, given out by Oxfam Novib director Michiel Servaes, honours authors who currently risk their freedom and their lives to seek out and publish the truth.
After the ceremony, Palestinian poet Asmaa Azaizeh and Turkish writer and journalist Barbaros Altuğ will be interviewed, on behalf of PEN Netherlands, by Hassnae Bouazza and Liesbeth Staats. Azaizeh and Altuğ will also read from their works.
The evening will be enhanced with performances by classical accordeon player Oleg Lysenko and will be hosted by Hassnae Bouazza. The Free the Word - Oxfam Novib PEN Award Night is a collaboration between Oxfam Novib, PEN International, PEN Netherlands and Writers Unlimited.
With the PEN Awards Oxfam Novib and Dutch PEN honour writers, journalists and filmmakers who, against the current, and at the risk of their own lives, search for the truth and spread it. Writer an secretary of PEN Netherlands Manon Uphoff will present the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award in Theater aan het Spui, as part of the Writers Unlimited Winternachten festival The Hague. The Syrian writer Samar Yazbek witnessed the brutal violence against demonstrating citizens in her country. She published about it, was severely threatened and consequently had to leave the country.
The other prize winners this year are Enoh Meyomesse (Cameroun), Nargess Mohammadi (Iran), Déo Namujimbo (Congo) and Büþra Ersanlý (Turkey). Samar Yazbek is the only winner present during the ceremony.
The prize-winning ceremony is followed by a debate organised by Dutch PEN about censorship, self-censorship and the ethics of writers, journalists and bloggers, chaired by Volkskrant columnist Sheila Sitalsing. Arabist Petra Stienen, Remco Breuker (a professor and an expert on East Asia), Michel Maas (a correspondent in Indonesia) and writer Joris van Casteren. Prizewinning ceremony is in English, the debate in Dutch.
January 2011 proved a turning point in the Arab region: people raised their voices and succeeded in chasing away some of their dictators. But what about the demons? Is the real struggle yet ahead? Petra Stienen discusses the current state of the Arab world with writers and bloggers from the region. In English