Summer holiday is put on hold for the staff in many ICORN cities. When the last border is successfully crossed, five cities have welcomed a persecuted writer/artist for ICORN residency only within the a week.
With ten ICORN applicants, from Egypt, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iran, Palestine, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Russia, already settled in ICORN cities earlier this year, ICORN has already reached the same amount of writers and artists arrived in all 2014.
ICORN programme officer Marianne Hovdan says:
“These are exciting days. Working closely with freedom of expression fighters for weeks and months if not years, it is a great relief each time one of them escapes threats, harassment and persecution and arrives safely in an ICORN city. And, we do hope our ability to help an ever larger number of people continues”, she says, “especially since the number of writers, artists and human rights defenders in need of shelter is by no means decreasing.”
During 2014, ICORN received and processed 70 applications from persecuted writers and artists. As illustrated below, a constant and thorough pressure on freedom of expression in Iran forced many journalists, bloggers, writers and artists to seek shelter outside the country. The terrible and still ongoing civil war in Syria is topping the list, and we unite in solidarity with our Syrian colleagues in- and outside the country in the hope and struggle for the war to come to an end.
Sharp increase in number of ICORN applications in 2015
As of yet in 2015, ICORN has received and is processing as many as 50 applications from writers and artists at risk. The most remarkable trend for this year (see below) is the large number of human rights defenders from Bangladesh, seeking for an ICORN safe haven. The brutal slaying of three bloggers earlier this year shocked a whole world, and serious threats have recently been directed at more than 80 secular Bangladeshi bloggers. Furthermore, Ethiopia is seemingly endlessly producing ICORN applicants, not many signs of improved human rights and freedom of expression conditions under the current regime.
“The increase in number of applications to ICORN also seems to reflect a world in unprecedented turmoil and crisis”, says ICORN executive director Helge Lunde. “We are glad to be part of the global community of actors in defense of human rights and freedom of expression, offering safe havens to as many censored and silenced voices as possible”, he continues. “With cities like Eskilstuna, Oaxaca, Pittsburgh, Linköping, Luzern and Ithaca NY joining ICORN only so far in 2015, more than 50 cities now unite in our global network of solidarity, creativity and hospitality. We hope to be able to increase the outreach and impact of our work in the weeks and months to come, making a real difference in the ongoing struggle for freedom of expression.”