On 22 May 2023, the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee selected Iraqi publisher Mazin Lateef Ali as the Prix Voltaire laureate at the award ceremony at the World Expression Forum in Lillehammer, Norway.
Mazin Lateef Ali (Iraq), chosen from a shortlist of five nominees, has been missing since being abducted in 2020. As a student in Baghdad, Iraq, Mazen Lateef started buying and selling books on Al-Mutanabi Street. He went on to establish Dar Mesopotamia for Printing, Publishing, and Distribution in 2007, earning a reputation as a distinguished and highly regarded member of Iraq’s cultural community. Lateef published a variety of books, including several centered around the Jewish communities and individuals of Iraq. Unfortunately, on January 31st, 2020, he was abducted at gunpoint and has not been heard from since.
Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said: Mazin Lateef’s commitment to the literary community and freedom of expression in Iraq should be an inspiration to us all. We call on those who have taken him to return him safely.
Gvantsa Jobava, Vice President of the International Publishers Association said: Silencing cultural expression is one of the tools of repressive regimes. We must resist their intimidation and celebrate our brave authors and publishers who help us experience and understand the diversity of our cultures.
Accepting the 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire on behalf of his father, Abdulmoahimen Mazin Lateef delivered a video address. He said: Never before did I imagine that someday I would stand in such a distinguished place to speak about my father, who always used to fill the atmosphere with his conversations about culture and thought. Unfortunately, his voice was silenced, and his sin was that he had a passion for freedom of thought, and sought – through his publishing house – to present readers with everything related to the cultural foundations of Iraq. Sincere thanks to all of you, for recognizing Mazin Lateef. His spirit is present with us right now, urging to find peace by knowing his fate for sure. It is not humanity to deprive a family from visiting the tomb of their father.
Photos of Mazin Lateef Ali are available here.
Photos of books published by Mazin Lateef Ali’s Dar Mesopotamia for Printing, Publishing, and Distribution are available here.
Photos from the ceremony will be available here.
Watch the full ceremony here.
About the 2023 Prix Voltaire
Prix Voltaire nominees are publishers – individuals, groups or organizations – who have typically published controversial works amid pressure, threats, intimidation or harassment, be it from governments, other authorities or private interests. Alternatively, they may be publishers with a distinguished record of upholding the values of freedom to publish and freedom of expression. For the purposes of the IPA Prix Voltaire, the definition of ‘publisher’ is an individual, collective or organization that provides others with the means to share their ideas in written form, including via digital platforms.
The IPA Prix Voltaire, which comes with a CHF 10,000 prize, is made possible by generous contributions from sponsors, all of which are publishing houses and organizations that share the values that the IPA Prix Voltaire recognizes.
The 2023 IPA Prix Voltaire shortlist was announced at London Book Fair on 20 April 2023.
- Mazen Lateef Ali, Iraq
- Günışığı Kitaplığı Publishing House, Turkey
- Mehr Husain, Pakistan
- Ahmed Mahmoud Ibrahim Ahmed, Egypt
Mercier Press, Ireland
The current sponsors of the IPA Prix Voltaire are, in alphabetical order: