In less than a month from now, the Chinese writer, journalist and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China. Arrested in June 2009 and convicted by the Chinese authorities to 11 years of imprisonment, the courage and the destiny of Liu Xiaobo reminds us about the importance and urgency of ICORN's work: Mobilising as many cities of refuge as possible in Europe and beyond, offering persecuted writers a safe haven where they can write and express themselves freely, without fear of being censored or silenced.
So far this year we have received 25 applications from persecuted writers in Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe and Latin America. Eight writers have arrived in ICORN cities so far this year, and we are expecting two more to arrive safely within the next two weeks. Seven ICORN member cities have invited writers recently, and are working on helping them out by securing visas and safe travel. Another three more cities are ready to invite a new writer shortly. Still, including the writers on their way to an ICORN city, we have more than 40 writers currently on our waiting list.
We are glad also to be able to say that more and more cities are on their way to become ICORN members. At present counting 32 member cities and regions, ICORN expects the cities of Paris, Ljubljana, Copenhagen, Krakow and Reykjavik to join in the next months. Other European cities are also considering ICORN membership, while negotiations are ongoing with cities in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. So, within a time horizon of only a few years, ICORN should have the potential to become a truly global organisation.
During ICORN's board meeting in Brussels mid October 2010, the Chairwoman Heidi Hautala of the European Parliament Subcommittee of Human Rights' speech to the Frankfurt ICORN General Assembly was followed up with meetings between the ICORN board and representatives of both the European Parliament and the European Commission. The ICORN board also took the opportunity to ratify the official ICORN documents as elaborated and adjusted by the Frankfurt assembly. The final versions of the ICORN Charter and Statutes are available here.
Also since our Frankfurt assembly, ICORN guest writers have been extensively taking part in literary activities and events in and around their host cities. Many have also (not at least thanks to the "Shahrazad - stories for life" project) been travelling throughout Europe and beyond, performing for instance at the book fairs in Gothenburg and Frankfurt, and at the Tokyo World Congress of PEN International. Just to mention a few upcoming events: Next weekend Danish PEN is mobilising all the Danish ICORN cities and their guest writers for events during the Copenhagen Book Fair, among others featuring the Danish Minister of Culture. On 10 December 2010 the ICORN member region of Tuscany invites ICORN guest writers Philo Ikonya and Mansur Rajih to perform at their Nelson Mandela Forum, where as many as between 8-9000 young people between 14 and 18 years old will be attending.
Then, time has come to announce the major and important ICORN event for 2011, in the capital of Europe. Do mark the dates already: ICORN writers, coordinators, observers and other guests will be invited to take part in the 2011 ICORN membership meeting in Brussels from 24 -27 March 2011.
ICORN member city Brussels/Passa Porta House of Literature will be our official host. The Passa Porta International Literature Festival (festival theme: "On the move") coincides with our meeting, and we will be invited guests to the major festival events. We expect also ICORN writers to be invited to participate in several of the Passa Porta literary events.
Lots of synergies will be drawn from the fact that PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee and Halma's network of 26 literary centres in Europe are organising their annual conferences in conjunction with our ICORN meeting. We will all be convening at the major KVS theatre, we will be sharing an opening event and a workshop session, and will be collectively invited to a reception by the Lord Mayor of Brussels.
But most of all, our 24-27 March meeting will be the opportunity in 2011 for all ICORN coordinators, writers, observers and other guests to discuss pressing issues, share vital experiences, meet with old and new friends and colleagues, and gather huge amounts of inspiration for all the fantastic and immensely important work to be performed in and through the ICORN member cities in the future.
The official call for the Brussels membership meeting 24-27 March 2011 will arrive in a mailbox near you before 15 December 2010. Meanwhile, please follow this website for updates, and please do not hesitate to contact the ICORN Administration Centre for any comment, question or inquiry.
Stavanger, 11 November 2010
Helge Lunde, Executive Director, ICORN
Elisabeth Dyvik, Programme Director, ICORN