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Carol Ann Duffy Shares PEN/Pinter Prize with Syrian Writer

By Harriet Staff

Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet laureate, will share her PEN/Pinter prize with Syrian writer Samar Yazbek. Yazbek, who is currently living in exile, is the author of Woman in the Crossfire, a book about her experiences in the early stages of the Syrian uprising.

The 42-year-old journalist and novelist, who had voiced support for the uprising online and participated in the protests, received hate mail and her family disowned her. She was also arrested and beaten.

Yazbek believes she was spared harsher treatment because she is an Alawite, the same religious group as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Instead, the Syrian regime began a campaign that questioned her morality, putting her in extreme danger in the Muslim country.

She ultimately fled to Paris with her daughter in July 2011. However, Yazbek continues to write about the Syrian rebellion, saying she returns to her country under cover.

Samar Yazbek has repeatedly challenged taboos regarding the status of Syrian women and took part in Syrian protests. She called winning the Pen/Pinter award “an important sign of the recognition of the Syrian people’s struggle.”

The annual prize, created in memory of the playwright Harold Pinter, is given to a British writer of outstanding literary merit who is then asked to name a “Writer of Courage” who demonstrates a “fierce intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies.”

Read the full story here.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.