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France/Bangladesh

Exiled writer Taslima Nasreen awarded Simone de Beauvoir prize

Article published on the 2008-05-21 Latest update 2008-05-21 15:37 TU

Taslima Nasreen(Photo: DR)

Taslima Nasreen
(Photo: DR)

Exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen is in Paris this week for the French release of her novel From my jail and to receive the Simone de Beauvoir prize from French Human Rights Minister Rama Yade. She will be the first recipient of the prize, which aims to support women's rights.

The prize is "all the more precious since Simone de Beauvoir has always been a great inspiration for me", Nasreen wrote to the jury.

"I have written on the need women have to understand why they are oppressed and why they should struggle against that oppression," she says.

Her new novel, From my jail is an account of her second exile in an Indian government safe house, after she was threatened by hardline Muslims in her adopted country, India.

Originally forced into exile after receiving death threats from hardline Muslims who deemed her novels blasphemous, Nasreen went into hiding in India for five months before fleeing to Sweden in March.

Nasreen, who trained as a gynecologist, said Wednesday that she will go back to India before her European six-month visa expires mid-August.

"I hope that the Indian government will allow me to stay so that I can live there peacefully," she said but was still unsure if she would have to live under house arrest.

She previously criticised the Indian government for not giving her permanent residence but only renewing her temporary visas. Nasreen said that secular Indian politicians were afraid of angering the more than 140 million Muslims who live in their country.

Nasreen's novel Shame, about a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims in Bangladesh, caused major controversy when it was published in 1994.

Speaking out about women's rights, Nasreen maintained that she was criticising culture and tradition in order to give strength and courage to those who felt they couldn't speak up.

"I told the truth. I cannot resist from telling the truth. Freedom of expression means the freedom to offend people. If you can't offend others, how can you change society?"