Iman Humaydan is a novelist and activist and the 50th PEN Member of our #100PENMembers!
She helped to found PEN Lebanon in 2012, became its President in 2015 and serves on the board of PEN International.
She is also the founder of ARRAWI, a non-profit center for marginalised youth in Lebanon.
Reflecting her own international outlook Humaydan’s novels B Mithl Beit, Mithl Beirut [B as in Beirut], Toot Barri [Wild Mulberries], Hayawat Okhra [Other Lives] and Khamsoun ghraman mena aljannah [Weight of Paradise] have been published in Arabic, French, German, English, Italian and Dutch. Her short stories, essays, and journalism have appeared in German, Swiss, French, and Arab newspapers and magazines. Humaydan co-wrote the screenplay for Chatti ya Deni [Here Comes The Rain], which won the first prize at the 2010 Dubai Film Festival, and the documentary film Asmahan, Une Diva Orientale, and edited the creative writing textbook Kitabat alkitabah (2010). Humaydan teaches creative writing in Paris 8 University in France.
Unsurprisingly she is a key voice in PEN’s Make Space campaign, launched in 2017 and the latest in a century of activism around refugee writers: ‘Wherever I go in Europe and elsewhere, I meet Arab writers who cannot go back to their countries.’
As a result of this PEN Lebanon presented works of refugees at the Arab Book Fair in 2016, drawing attention to the voices of displaced writers. They also arranged for Lebanese and displaced writers to visit schools in Beirut to discuss their work and put on performances in the centre of Beirut to showcase the work of writers in exile.
Humaydan told the Daily Star Lebanon in 2017 that ‘Through literature we are trying to build bridges with the younger generations and to launch an awareness campaign with respect to the vital issues [such] as freedom of expression and the situation of writers in different parts of the world.’
PEN Lebanon – a key voice in the region – also took part in a PEN International trip to Turkey to meet displaced writers and journalists living there.
Humaydan’s commitment to the displaced forms the basis of her writing: ‘For refugee writers, writing about migration means learning how to deal with conflict but in another language. And to dream of a peace that is missing.’
Since then, the situation in Lebanon has changed significantly following the civic uprising of October 2019 which brought down the government, only to replace it with a series of rival political and religious factions, vying for power.
Lebanese PEN continues to speak out and to play an active role in PEN International, drawing attention to events in Lebanon whilst continuing to speak out for writers across the globe. You can follow their activities on their website.