Gold Mercury Board Member Wins Prestigious Freedom to Write Award

Sonia Nassery Cole, Gold Mercury International Advisory Board Member and Director and Producer of the inspirational film ‘Black Tulip’ has won the Freedom to Write Award, granted by the PEN Center USA.

The Oscar nominated film ‘Black Tulip’ addresses the notion that “freedom is never free” and is about a family in Kabul that opens a literary café catering to artists and poets. In the café, poets are offered the opportunity to read their works. The film was shot on location in Kabul, Afghanistan using extensive security precautions despite death threats from the Taliban . The film was nominated for an Oscar in both the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Soundtrack categories in 2011. Nassery Cole also established the Afghanistan World Foundation funding the construction of a hospital for women and children in Kabul, medical care for land-mine victims and other causes.

PEN Center USA has a membership list of more than 800 writers, including poets, playwrights, essayists, novelists (these make up the original letters in the acronym, ‘PEN’), as well as television and screenwriters, critics, historians, editors, journalists and translators. PEN Center USA was founded in 1943. Its mission states that the organisation will “defend and promote freedom of expression throughout the world by advocating for the release of imprisoned writers, and for the protection of writers who suffer political prosecution, persecution, and censorship.” Since 1993, PEN Center USA’s Freedom To Write Program has honoured individuals whose work and experience underscores their mission.

The Freedom To Write Award will be presented to Sonia Nassery Cole at a gala dinner on October 14, 2013, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

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Filmmaker, Activist and Philanthropist Sonia Nassery Cole Joins Gold Mercury’s International Advisory Board

A recent addition to the expanding Gold Mercury International Advisory Board is Sonia Nassery Cole, Founder of the Afghanistan World Foundation. The International Advisory Board is comprised of individuals who have made a significant contribution to world affairs, business and governance, and Sonia Nassery Cole is no exception.

She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding Afghanistan and strengthens our global areas of culture, peace & security and international law & humanitarian affairs through her work as a filmmaker, activist and philanthropist. She has also demonstrated Gold Mercury’s key principles of visionary leadership and sustainability through her role with the Afghanistan World Foundation and her work as a champion of human rights. As Nicolas De Santis, President and Secretary General of Gold Mercury International noted:

“Sonia Nassery Cole has worked all her life and risked all to defend the freedom and independence of the people of her country. She is determined and committed to continue such hard work through her feature films and her philanthropic work for women and children. She will not rest until Afghanistan is one day a totally free, safe and peaceful nation again. It is an honour to include her among our board members.”

Born in Afghanistan in 1963, Cole fled the Soviet-occupied country at the age of 14 by walking to neighbouring Pakistan. Three years later she had relocated to the United States and began to work with the United Nations. During her teenage years she corresponded with President Reagan in a bid to assist her homeland in breaking free from Soviet occupation. He invited her to visit the White House and she aided his efforts to get Congressional authorisation for stinger missiles to be sent to Afghanistan. She continued to campaign tirelessly for her home country, organising a major fundraising event to publicise the plight of Afghan refugees as part of her role on the Board of The Afghanistan Relief Committee. She worked throughout the 1980’s aiding the Afghan resistance movement, helping to raise critical funds in order to better the lives of countless refugees.

In 2002 she founded the Afghanistan World Foundation, whose mission is to provide support at the grass roots level in order to improve education, economic development and emergency health services, as well as to expand social opportunities for women and improve the conditions for children. Much of their work improving mobile medical services, centres around the issue of land mines in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world.

Whilst working with the Afghanistan World Foundation to rebuild schools in 2004, Cole directed her first short film “The Bread Winner”. The film documents a day in the life of a nine year old Afghan boy who sells newspapers on the streets of Kabul in order to support his family. The film also illustrated the broader story of the hardships faced by many Afghans every day. The film premiered at the Milan International Film Festival in 2007 and was subsequently shown at eight other festivals around the world.

In 2009, Cole returned to film making by writing, directing and producing her first feature film, “The Black Tulip”. This film became the first American -backed film produced in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The film centres around a family in Kabul who open a restaurant called The Poet’s Corner, where they encourage freedom of expression from artists and writers. However the Taliban soon become aware the activities in the restaurant and the family begin to be targeted. “The Black Tulip” also depicts the struggles of everyday people in Afghanistan and examines the power of resilience following a tragedy. The film garnered international praise and recognition, becoming the official Afghan entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.

Today, Cole continues be at the forefront of awareness and relief campaigns through her work as Chairman of the Afghanistan World Foundation. Sonia Nassery Cole will be a valued new member to our Board, sharing the future vision of Gold Mercury International. She stated:

“It is an honour to join such a historic organisation that regards peace and cooperation as the key pillar of future international relations and global sustainability. Gold Mercury’s work to create a new global mind set based on the idea that we are all global citizens sharing universal values is a great step forward towards eradicating the prejudice and mental barriers of the past.”

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