Sweden has quickly grown to become the home of the largest number of ICORN members in the world. Not loosing the momentum is now the focus and also the basis for a seminar and debate hosted by the Swedish Arts Council during this week's political gathering Almedalsveckan. Kerstin Brunnberg, journalist and former president of the Swedish Arts Council, chairing the debat stated that "the cities of refuge network (...) is part of the work of securing democracy".
Amanda Lind, Minister of Culture and Democracy, took the opportunity to thank the municipalities and regions already hosting a persecuted writer or artist, adding that she would like to see more cities of refuge and that the government would continue their support. To SVT she said that the sharing of knowledge and collaboration between hosting cities are important when planning for further growth. Lind also stressed the importance of recognizing the role the cities have, not only in protecting a specific individual, but also the positive effect on the society as a whole.
Safe, but not silent
Afghan journalist and ICORN resident in Malmö, Wali Arian, and national coordinator for the Swedish ICORN cities, Karin Hansson, also attended the event. Arian came to Sweden in 2017 after serious threats from the Taliban "I was the most wanted journalist from the Taliban. I was worried that maybe the Taliban would follow me here. But slowly I understood that they cannot (...). You have to continue your job as a journalist. You are safe, but not silent". Arian is today working for his former employer in Afghanistan as a freelance journalist.
The importance of collaboration
Karin Hansson described how the network has grown in Sweden and the increasing need for residencies. She highlighted the importance of collaboration between the cities, the cultural institutions and the private sector with festivals, cultural platforms and other initiatives that can invite the ICORN residents into a professional network, providing them with the opportunity to continue their important work and having their voice heard.