How ICORN Defended Artists and Freedom of Expression in 2022

by | Dec 16, 2022 | News

As dangerous conditions intensified across the globe this year for writers, artists, and journalists, the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) persisted in its work to offer them protection.

Ongoing conflict in in Yemen, Ethiopia, and Myanmar, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and unrest in Afghanistan and Iran especially have put strain on the organization. But through these challenges, ICORN has welcomed 21 new residents to its Cities of Refuge, including in Ithaca, New York; and for the first time in Lyon, France, and Fredrikstad, Norway.

ICORN noted how rising instability has damaged human rights throughout the world, and Reporters Without Borders’ 20th World Press Freedom Index has shown democracy struggling amid a “two-fold increase in polarisation, amplified by information chaos.” Attacks on freedom of expression have continued, including with the murder of 57 journalists, the detainment of many more, and the attack on Salman Rushdie in Chautauqua, New York, on August 12th.

This has made ICORN’s work yet more pressing, with an imperative to defend against censorship and violence while celebrating human imagination and international solidarity. Such was the effect of the writing, new membership, and wide-reaching programs in Cities of Refuge this year.

In Stockholm, Sweden, Afghan ICORN resident Zahra Hussain organized “A Night with Buddha” soon after arriving in the city. This festival of dance, poetry, music, and discussion aimed to celebrate Afghan heritage and commemorate the Buddha statutes destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Fatemeh Ekhtesari’s latest poetry collection, “Hun er ikke kvinne” (“She is not a woman”), came in solidarity with Iran’s biggest and longest lasting protests since the 1978 Revolution. And after the death of Mahsa Amini, Farima Habashizadehasl, better known as the rapper Justina, released the song “Revolution.”

During Banned Books Week in September, ICORN and CoA residents toured three U.S. cities in solidarity with writers after the attack on Salman Rushdie. Dmitry Bykov, Pwaangulongii Dauod, Pedro X. Molina, and Anouar Rahmani made stops in Ithaca, Pittsburgh, and Detroit to share the urgency of free expression in the face of persecution.

ICORN also held its general assembly in Gdańsk, Poland, where over 250 ICORN members, residents, and representatives gathered for performances, panels, discussions, and workshops after three years of pandemic disruption. In March 2023, the organization will hold a Network Meeting in Brussels.


Image: Some of the 2022 ICORN residents. From top left: Evan Hikmat (Iraq/Haugesund), Vafa Mehraeen (Iran/Brussels), Jannatun Nayeem Prity (Bangladesh/Paris), LAZA (Yemen/Lyon), Hiro Mohammadamini and Frya Ahmadi (Kurdish Iranian/ Umeå), Leila Ghahremani (Iran/Fredrikstad)


More from The Edge

The New Long COVID is College Without Classes

I was punched in the gut. It hurt. I thought this would be the seminar session to bring all the theories and histories of documentary across analog and digital together with a big political and epistemological impact. But I should have summoned my semiotic training to...

Warhol, Art, and Capitalism Before the Supreme Court

The Andy Warhol Foundation has lost its suit against photographer Lynn Goldsmith. The Supreme Court’s May 18, 2023, ruling positioned the decision as a defense of lesser known artists against famous ones. The majority argued that Fair Use was not applicable when...

How Media Bias Twists Public Perception of the Writers’ Strike

Outside of the corporate offices and backlots of Netflix, Disney, NBC, Universal, and Warner Brothers, masses of protestors stand with signs that range from serious to hilarious, all with the same message: writers need to be fairly paid for their work. Corporate media...

Motherhood, Technology, and Natalia Almada’s “Users”

Natalia Almada’s documentary essay film “Users” (2021) questions a mother’s deep ambivalence about technology. But the film’s aesthetics makes clear that she has already chosen technology. The film is the binational Mexican American director’s first shot in the United...

Guilty of Sexual Abuse (But Not Rape?)

On Contemptuous Men and the Women who Fight Back A short note about the subtitle before I begin: it is interesting how these gender terms hold sometimes in all their simplicity and binary force. Other than the title, when I use the term woman/en it is inclusive of...

The Drifting Smoke of the Burned-Over District

South Butler, New York, is a forgotten byway in American history. Its moment of notoriety came and went. Now it is just a crossroad hamlet struggling to matter like so many other such places in rural America. But once it did matter. In the decades before the Civil...

Capturing the Latino Vote

The 2024 election season has begun. Candidates identify political and policy priorities. Voters constantly wonder where on the political spectrum the country will land. At the same time, a political messaging battle about voter turnout and possible voter suppression...