Bern joined the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) in January 2019. The Swiss German PEN Center had been looking for a new base for its already well-established Writers-in-Exile program and asked the Mayor of Bern, Alec von Graffenried, and the City of Bern to become this new safe haven for persecuted writers. Human rights, in particular the right to express one’s opinion freely, are values that the government and the people of Bern uphold. The Mayor and his colleagues in the city council did not hesitate to support the Swiss German PEN Center’s request.
The City of Bern is an ideal place to host a writer. It is centrally located in the middle of Switzerland. Travelling to other Swiss destinations is easy and fast. Bern is the capital, and people from all parts of the world live here. The city is not only the political center of Switzerland, it is also famous for being a beautiful place with a high quality of life.
Bern is the home of the Bern University of the Arts – an institution working closely together with the Swiss German PEN Center.
The cultural offering in Bern impressive. As for literature, Bern has a wide range of literary all year long. These are some of them:
sonOhr Radio and Podcast Festival
Swiss Literary Awards
Thun Literary Festival Literaare
Festival Aprillen, the Reading Festival
Swiss Reading Day
Berne Literature Festival, every 2 years in August in Berne
Longform Festival Bern
Night of the Readers
University Library: «Text! – Berner Literatur im Gespräch»
Café Kairo Bern
Punto at the Tramdepot Burgernziel, Kulturapero with various readings
Zentrum Paul Klee
The first ICORN writer arrived mid-January 2019 in Bern. His name is Firas Shamsan and he is an author, journalist, photographer, blogger and social activist from Yemen. Before travelling to Switzerland, he lived in exile in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.