#20 2016

I will go back to my country one day

“I can't describe the conflicting emotions inside me whenever I left my home carrying in my pocket a Syrian passport, a Swedish residence permit, and Turkish identification card. I can shout to the metro passengers in the rush-hour: ‘Listen, what you see before you now, is a three-dimensional citizen.’”

Syrian poet Housam Al-Mosilli was forced to flee Syria in 2012 after having been imprisoned and tortured three times. He lived in exile in Istanbul for four years while waiting to find a refuge. On February 25, he arrived in Linköping as the city’s first refuge writer. We asked him to write a diary during his last days in Istanbul.

Refuge writers due to sexual orientation

For Somali writer Ahmed Mohamed, being gay and writing about it in a strongly homophobic environment became more and more dangerous. Finally, through ICORN, he managed to leave and become Skellefteå’s first refuge writer. However, reality of life as an immigrant in Sweden

Darkness over Mosul – about journalism and ISIS in Iraq

For Iraqi journalist and writer Nawzat Shamdin, the meaning of the word home has come to be redefined during the two years he has lived in Skien, Norway. For over a decade, through his work as a journalist, Shamdin has drawn attention to atrocities committed by militias in Iraq, and in particular by ISIS

“I can still hear the bombs that fell in the background”

Sweden got its first refuge musician in 2013 – the controversial rapper Khaled Harara from Gaza. In his lyrics, he discusses the political situation in Palestine from a social and humanitarian perspective. Among other

“My city, which is not mine”

The situation for an increasing number of Russian intellectuals became impossible following the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down in Moscow on February 27, 2015. This included Russian writer

The impossibility and invincibility of ICORN

There are today 52 cities of refuge around the world. Helge Lunde, director of ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network), the organization that coordinates the world’s cities of refuge for persecuted and threatened

What does the work of a refuge coordinator look like?

According to the agreement with ICORN, each refuge city has to designate a coordinator responsible for the project. What does this role entail? Jasmina Rihar, coordinator for Ljubljana City of Refuge, here answers that

From Havana to Reykjavik

Cuban poet Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was forced to leave his home country in 2013 after having been denounced as a “traitor” to his country and accused of carrying out “counter-revolutionary” activities due to his poetry.

Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl – a Mexican home for writers living in exile

In the vibrant district of Condesa in Mexico City, you find Casa Refugio Citlaltépetl – a house that combines the work of housing persecuted and threatened writers, translating and publishing writers in exile as well as

Peace songs for Sudan

Month after month, the Sudanese musician Abazar Hamid submitted his peace and love songs to the government’s music monitoring committee which mostly censored and rejected them. Songs dealing with social and political issues riding Sudan were

Refuge in resistance to terror

Already in 1997 Jacques Derrida held a prophetic lecture. This was during the International Parliament of Writers’ conference in Strasbourg on the topic of creating shelters for writers. The IPW had been formed on the initiative of Vaclav Havel and it campaigned the issue of sanctuaries for threatened and persecuted writers—a movement that followed on the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989. But as the IPW and PEN had claimed, the threat against Rushdie threw light also on the large group of writers who had either been killed or who were being persecuted but who had hitherto gone unnoticed—writers who were in need of protection to be able to continue to write and spread their or others’ ideas.  Today in many places authors, journalists, and other cultural workers are being ever more harassed precisely because they put into words those things that totalitarian regimes and terrorist groups have forbidden in discourse.

The refuge network is a response to this silencing. Already in 1996 Stockholm provided a few refuges and two years later Gothenburg followed suit; in the entire world there are now approximately fifty such refuges—refuges that cooperate with ICORN in Stavanger, Norway. In 2006, when the IPW had monetary problems ICORN became the financial guarantor of the network. Besides ICORN there are also a few private shelters that offer protection and peace to work for those who are writing about controversial or forbidden topics.

But let us go back to Strasbourg in 1997. Derrida was also one of the initiators of the refuge network, and in his lecture he aimed to build a philosophical foundation for the enterprise and argue for its necessity. As witnesses to this necessity he lists several well-known persons who needed shelter such as Dante Alighieri, Immanuel Kant, and Hannah Arendt, but there are two strains in particular in Derrida’s reasoning that are important to highlight.