The Ossietzky Prize is Norwegian PEN's award for an outstanding effort in promoting freedom of expression. It is awarded annually on November 15, the "Day of Imprisoned Writers". This year's winner is the Iranian writer, playwrite, poet and theater and film director Mansour Koushan.
Koushan is an award winning writer, and will be the first ICORN Guest Writer in Norway to be given the Ossietzky Prize. In Iran, he took part in forming an independent writers' union, and he is a staunch critic of the current regime. In 1998, he was invited to Oslo by the Forum for Freedom of Expression to hold a lecture, and while he was there two of his close friends were assasinated in Iran. Koushan was informed that his name was also on the police's death list. Because of these events, Koushan could not return to Iran and stayed in Norway. He became Stavanger City of Refuge's Guest Writer in 2000, and has since lived there with his wife and two children.
We congratulate Mansour Koushan on receiving the Ossietzky Prize, and are very happy to be able to bring his acceptance speech to all of you here at Shahrazad - stories for life!
"I would like to thank the founders of the Ossietzky prize. I also would like to sincerely thank the Norwegian PEN Association and its chair who recognized me as worthy of this prize. I strongly believe that prizes such as this are both a big support for writers, publishers and activists who work for freedom of speech as well as an effective weapon against dictatorial and populist governments.
More than seventy years have passed since the death of Ossietzky under the tortures of the fascist Hitler regime. During this time many dictators have fallen as a result of support by democratic writers and institutions and many countries have come to understand the meaning of freedom. But even though many social institutions in the advanced and free countries have been founded to defend the freedom of expression, thousands of writers fighting censorship, repression and war are still imprisoned by regimes that are anti-freedom and anti-peace and writers are still condemned to death because of expressing their ideas.
In my country Iran, dictatorship is ruling in the most despicable form. Never in history has there been any ideologically-based regime more menacing than religious regimes. In the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, all civil rights are suppressed and all religious, ethnic and ideological liberties are also repressed. Under this regime women are not free even in their own homes.
Twenty years have passed since the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his Fatwa for the death of Salman Rushdie. Fortunately, because of the tireless efforts of many freedom lovers and democratic governments, Salman Rushdie's life was saved. But from that date to now many Iranian writers have been tortured in prisons because of expressing their views or they have been assassinated in the streets, and because of the publication of my works and my activities in the Association of Iranian Writers in defense of the freedom of expression and the press, my name was placed at the top of the list of terror.