Kholoud Charaf, Syrian poet and art critic, as well as a social activist looking for better opportunities for women and children who survived the war became a scholarship holder of the City of Krakow as part of the ICORN program – the International Cities of Refuge Network. The organizers of her residency are the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office and the Villa Decius Association.
Kholoud Charaf comes from Al Mjemr in the south of Syria. In 2003, she graduated from the University of Damascus and obtained a diploma as a medical technician. In 2013-2015 she worked as the head of the medical unit at the women’s ward in the central Suwayda prison. For almost a year, she also worked as an English teacher at the Syrian Children’s Education Institute, with children who had no chance of formal education due to the ongoing war in this country. She also participated in the psychological support course organized by Syrian Red Cross in 2013.
As a poet, Charaf has published one volume entitled The Remains of the Butterfly, published by Takween Publishing House in 2016. Th originality of literary images and metaphors and the author’s ability to transform the difficult events of war into beautiful, imaginary worlds generated from memories was well-appreciated by critics.
Currently Charaf is working on her second collection of poetry, which will be titled As If I was Born to Escape the War and a book documenting the atrocities of war in southern Syria. As an art critic, Charaf wrote many reviews of contemporary art exhibitions by Syrian and Arab artists.
Krakow – City of Literature, City of Refuge
Krakow joined ICORN in 2011 (the Miłosz Year) and was the first member of this network from Central and Eastern Europe. The ICORN network, offering shelter to writers and human rights defenders who, due to persecution, cannot live and create freely in their own country, was founded in 2005 in Norway.
ICORN is an ever-growing network of nearly 70 cities, and its activity is based on the defense of freedoms of speech, opinion and expression and international solidarity. During its 10 years of operation, the ICORN network has provided temporary shelter for several hundred writers, intellectuals, bloggers and human rights activists. The network also works with national governments and many organizations around the world.
International cooperation within the ICORN network occupies a strategic position in the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature program and its development strategy covering 10 thematic areas, including promoting the connection between literature and human rights.