At the age of 19, Ana was taken hostage by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) when visiting Iran. She was falsely accused of espionage for MI6, CIA, and Mossad, and spent over 200 days in solitary confinement. Initially sentenced to death, she was subjected to numerous human rights violations throughout her detention, such as a mock execution and a forced virginity test. Since her release and return, she has been a vocal human rights advocate and a political commentator, particularly on matters concerning the West-Middle-East relations.
In September 2019, Ana co-founded an initiative that seeks to end state-sponsored hostage-taking practices. The initiative was launched on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, with the presence of journalists from news outlets such as the Washington Post and the NBC News.
To reflect on her journey, Ana participated in a New Writer's Competition organised by Penguin Random House imprint #Merky Books. Out of 1,200 submissions, she was one of four to be short-listed under the Non-Fiction category. She is currently working on her memoir about the lessons of exile and reconciliation, the reality of living and surviving death row in Iran, and the power of perseverance.
Layla is a multi-award-winning journalist based in London. She writes for leading publications in the UK including Harper's Bazaar, GQ, VICE, Dazed, Refinery29, Grazia, Cosmopolitan and Bustle among others.
Layla won the Guild of Health Writers' Young Journalist in 2018, and ‘New Journalist of The Year’ at the PPA New Talent Awards in 2017. Layla has also been shortlisted for several other journalism awards including the ‘Features’ category at the Amnesty Media Awards 2020 and the 'Media' category at the Asian Woman of Achievement Awards 2019.
Layla's writing is often inspired by marginalised communities, relationships, and the exploration of identity in young British women of multi-heritage.
Layla has also lived in Miami and Dubai, and Hotpants Hijabi is her first novel.
Find out more about her here
Nemat Sadat is the author of The Carpet Weaver, published by Penguin Random House India. He is a prominent activist and journalist currently based in Washington D.C. He is the first native from Afghanistan to have publicly come out as gay and campaign for LGBTQIA rights in Muslim communities worldwide. While teaching at the American University of Afghanistan, he secretly mobilized a gay movement off campus but was then persecuted by the Afghan authorities and deemed a national security threat for allegedly subverting Islam.
Sadat has been featured in Vogue, Grazia and major newspapers and magazines, and has previously worked at ABC News's Nightline, CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and the UN Chronicle. He has earned six university degrees, including graduate degrees from Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford. The Carpet Weaver is his first novel. He is currently at work on his second novel, and his memoir.
Kanishka Gupta is a literary agent, author, consultant and publishing commentator. He is the founder of Writer's Side, the largest literary agency and consultancy in South Asia. He has been credited for single-handedly popularising literary representation in the subcontinent and is one of the most written about publishing professionals in the whole of South Asia.
His first novel was longlisted for the Asian Booker Prize in 2009 and was published by a major Indian press in 2010. The novel received acclaim from some of India's leading papers and literary journals for being 'different' and 'an ingeniously crafted experiment'.
Rob Wetton is a South African/Australian/Swiss awarded Copywriter, Creative Director, creative judge, human rights activist and awarded poet.
After completing his Law degree, Rob worked as a Copywriter and later Creative Director for leading advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett. His work has helped advance a wide range of global organisations including the International Olympic Committee, The International Trade Centre, Apple, Kinder, BMW, Hilton, Deutsche Telekom, Jacobs coffee and other brands and NGOs.
Aside from writing and brand building, Rob has always been passionate about human rights and advancing the community. He worked at the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia where he helped increase the scope of reparations for victims at the trials. He also started an Australian charity that launched libraries in Immigration Detention Centres and conducted educational programmes with schools. He continues to consult with NGOs and United Nations associations in a creative capacity.
Rob currently resides in the Swiss Alps with his partner and his inner child.