Lawyer and human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair has been named this year's PEN Pinter International Writer of Courage.
The winner of the PEN Pinter Prize for 2018, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, made the announcement at the PEN Pinter Prize ceremony, hosted at the British Library on Tuesday evening (9th October).
A founding member of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia (MHRSA), Abulkhair has written hundreds of articles and represented fellow activists including Raif Badawi. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for “undermining the regime" by hosting salons in which liberal young people can speak openly about politics, religion, culture and human rights. Naming his salon "samood", meaning "resistance" or "steadfastness", Abulkhair had put on the salons in wake of a tightening of laws around public gatherings by the Saudi Arabian government to prevent "unbelief" and "deviant thought". July 2018 marked four years since his sentencing, and he remains imprisoned amidst reports that he has been denied medication, books and post.
Abulkhair told the Washington Post in 2012: "I am unable to leave this country, but the sun of humanity shines upon me every day. I bask in its rays, gaining strength against the darkness of oppression. My voice and the voices of others like me shall reach the world, no matter how hard they try to silence us. We shall say, consistently and proudly: steadfastness."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was chosen as the 2018 PEN Pinter Prize recipient in June, said: "I am proud to share this year's PEN Pinter Prize with activist, lawyer and writer Waleed Abulkhair. Waleed has dedicated his life to holding the Saudi authorities accountable for human rights abuses. He has dedicated his life to speaking out, to supporting the victims of those abuses. Waleed, like Harold Pinter, has shown a lucid dedication to telling his truth. But rather than being lauded for this dedication, Waleed has paid a heavy price - 15 years behind bars.
"I am deeply proud to share this prize with Waleed and I hope that this small act of solidarity will bring him some comfort, and will remind him that his struggle has not been forgotten, nor will it be in vain."