‘Immensely brave’: Abduljalil al-Singace named international writer of courage

The Bahraini activist who is serving a life sentence in prison for his role in anti-government protests was chosen to share the PEN Pinter prize by Malorie Blackman

The academic, activist and blogger Abduljalil al-Singace from Bahrain has been named this year’s international writer of courage by Malorie Blackman. Al-Singace is serving a life sentence in prison for his role in Bahrain’s 2011 anti-government protests.

The award is part of the PEN Pinter prize, which goes to an author deemed to have fulfilled Harold Pinter’s aspiration to “define the real truth of our lives and our societies”. This year’s PEN Pinter winner was Blackman, the first children’s writer to be awarded the prize. She chose al-Singace as the international writer of courage, an award for an author who has been persecuted for speaking out about their beliefs, with whom she will share her prize.

In July 2021, al-Singace went on hunger strike to protest against his mistreatment in prison, which included the confiscation of a manuscript he had been working on for years.

“When I first heard of the plight of Dr al-Singace … I was immediately struck by his commitment regarding effecting change in his homeland, including by highlighting the methods used to suppress freedom of expression,” Blackman said. “He has been incarcerated for over a decade and has been on hunger strike and without solid food for over 400 days, which shines a spotlight on an immensely brave man who defines the word courage.”

Prior to his detention more than a decade ago, al-Singace taught engineering at the University of Bahrain. He also authored his own blog Al-Faseelah. According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the website was blocked by the Bahraini authorities in 2009.

In the summer of 2010, al-Singace visited the UK to attend a seminar at the House of Lords, during which he described the deteriorating human rights situation in Bahrain.

“[There are] three pillars ensuring that activists and NGOs who work on exposing violations are seized and [condemned] somehow, ensuring that they are suppressed,” he said at the seminar. “The first is the use of force, torture and ill-treatment. [The] second is the use of the law. And [the] third is the judicial apparatus and procedures.”

On his way home, al-Singace was arrested at Bahrain international airport, apparently in light of concerns that the academic could “damage the country’s stability”.

Al-Singace and others on trial with him were released in February 2011 after widespread calls for political reform. However, he was rearrested in March and sentenced to life imprisonment in June.

Be careful when you use the words ‘change’ ‘dream’ and ‘democracy’”, al-Singace wrote in the New York Times in 2009. “Those things don’t come so easily to us.”

Al-Singace’s international writer of courage award was accepted on his behalf by Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. After more than a year of refusing solid foods, PEN is seriously concerned for al-Singace’s health and wellbeing and continues to call for his immediate release. Meanwhile, the human rights organisation continues to call for an improvement to his prison conditions, in particular the return of his manuscript to his family.


Lucy Knight

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Eritrean poet Amanuel Asrat named International Writer of Courage
The author, imprisoned without charge since 2001, was chosen to share the PEN Pinter prize by 2020’s winner Linton Kwesi Johnson

Alison Flood

13, Oct, 2020 @11:36 AM

Article image
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija named this year’s International Writer of Courage
The Ugandan novelist, who was tortured in prison over his book The Greedy Barbarian, has been selected by Tsitsi Dangarembga as part of the PEN Pinter prize

Alison Flood

11, Oct, 2021 @7:30 PM

Article image
Malorie Blackman’s ‘dynamic imaginary worlds’ win her the PEN Pinter prize
Noughts & Crosses author praised by judges for ‘challenging issues of injustice in a way that is totally engaging’

Sarah Shaffi

21, Jun, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Margaret Atwood selects Tutul for Pen writer of courage award
Atwood praises the ‘huge personal courage’ of the Bangladeshi publisher, who survived a machete attack by Islamic extremists and still won’t be silenced

Alison Flood

13, Oct, 2016 @5:30 PM

Article image
Philip Roth, Patti Smith and Woody Allen join protest at jailing of Egyptian writer
Authors among 120 prominent writers and artists to co-sign PEN America letter to President Sisi demanding release

David Batty

10, May, 2016 @4:02 PM

Article image
PEN/Nabokov award relaunched to promote 'global voices' in US
The $50,000 prize will honour a living international author whose work is ‘of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship’

Alison Flood

11, Aug, 2016 @3:09 PM

Article image
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie accepts PEN Pinter prize with call to speak out
Arguing that authors have a duty to ‘call a lie a lie’, novelist also names human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair as the 2018 International Writer of Courage

Alison Flood

09, Oct, 2018 @7:02 PM

Article image
JK Rowling defends Donald Trump's right to be 'offensive and bigoted'
Harry Potter author tells Pen America gala she disagrees with calls for US presidential hopeful to be banned from the UK

Alison Flood

17, May, 2016 @11:20 AM

Article image
Michael Longley wins PEN Pinter prize for 'unflinching, unswerving' poetry
Northern Irish writer praised by judges for his ‘fierce intellectual determination’ wins annual award in memory of the late Nobel laureate

Danuta Kean

01, Jun, 2017 @5:01 AM

Article image
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wins PEN Pinter prize
Nigerian author wins award in memory of the late Nobel laureate for her ‘refusal to be deterred or detained by the categories of others’

Alison Flood

12, Jun, 2018 @9:47 AM