City of Refuge

The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) offers a place of refuge to writers and human rights defenders who cannot live and create freely in their own countries because of persecutions. It was established in Norway in 2005. One of the network’s originators was Salman Rushdie, whose novel, The Satanic Verses, raised violent protests throughout the Islamic world and resulted in a fatwa being put on the author by Ayatollah Khomeini, which obliged each faithful Muslim to kill the writer.

According to Rushdie’s idea, the aim of ICORN is to promote inalienable values of the freedom of speech and creation by building a network of international solidarity and co-operation. During 10 years of its activity, ICORN has found temporary places of refuge for several hundred writers, intellectuals, bloggers, and human rights activists.

ICORN co-ordinates the Shelter Cities program and is an important organisation co-operating with governments of various countries, the European Commission, the United Nations, UNHCR and the International PEN Club in defence of human rights for the purpose of implementing a protective policy for authors persecuted because of their activity.

The international situation results in a growing number of applications for refuge sent by writers, journalists, bloggers and human rights activities, particularly from Bangladesh, Syria, Burundi, Iraq, Iran and Ethiopia. In 2014, ICORN received 70 applications from persecuted writers / artists, and 15 new candidates were granted ICORN residential stays in member cities. The network was expanded with six new cities, including Dalarne, Eskilstuna, Norrköping, Harstad, Levanger and Linköping.

In 2015, ICORN received 109 applications for help. ICORN offered refuge to 28 writers and artists in 2015, which means almost twice as much as in 2014. The new cities that joined ICORN in 2015 include Pittsburgh, Oaxaca, Lucerne, Eskilstuna, Ithaca (NY), Wrocław and Uddevalla.

‘Our main challenge for the years 2014-2018 is to enlarge substantially the range and the scale of impact of the organisation. By acquiring a larger number of candidates, recruiting new member cities and co-operating intensively with current members and sister organisations from around the world, we want to turn ICORN into the main platform of communication for seeking refuge for endangered writers and artists. In this way, we want to create a dynamic, sustainable and truly global network’ (Peter Ripken, Chair of the Board of ICORN)

Today ICORN creates a dynamic network of over 50 cities, and its activity is one of the strongest voices in defence of freedom of opinion and expression as well as international solidarity. The group of ICORN member cities includes, among others, Amsterdam (Netherlands), Aarhus (Denmark), Barcelona (Spain), Bergen (Norway), Bø (Norway), Brussels (Belgium), Chiusi and Tuscany region (Italy), Copenhagen (Denmark), Dalarne (Sweden), Drøbak (Norway), Elsinore (Denmark), Eskilstuna (Sweden), Frankfurt (Germany), Gävle (Sweden), Girona (Spain), Göteborg (Sweden), Hannover (Germany), Harstad (Norway), Haugesund (Norway), Ithaca (USA), Jönköping (Sweden), Karlstad (Sweden), Krakow (Poland), Kristiansand (Norway), Levanger (Norway), Linköping (Sweden), Lillehammer (Norway), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Lucerne (Switzerland), Malmö (Sweden), Mexico City (Mexico), Molde (Norway), Norrköping (Sweden), Norwich (Great Britain), Oaxaca (Mexico), Oslo (Norway), Paris (France), Pittsburgh (USA), Reykjavik (Iceland), Sigtuna (Sweden), Skåne (Sweden), Skellefteå (Sweden), Skien (Norway), Stavanger (Norway), Stockholm (Sweden), Tuscany (Italy), Tromsø (Norway), Trondheim (Norway), Uppsala (Sweden), Västra Götaland (Sweden),Växjö (Sweden).

Krakow is an active member of ICORN.Representatives of the City of Krakow and the Villa Decius Association took part in ICORN meetings in Brussels, Stockholm, Krakow, Ljubljana, Amsterdam and Paris.From the 14th till the 16th of May 2013, the City organised an extraordinary international conference Writing Freedom together with ICORN and PEN International WiPC (Writers in Prison Committee). The conference was attended by almost 200 representatives of the literary world: writers, critics, translators, managers and officers of literary institutions from 50 countries, including the United States, Canada, Syria, Philippines, India, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Bahrain, China, and Sri Lanka. The meeting was attended by representatives of the most important global institutions engaged in protection of the freedom of speech.

On the 24th of May 2014 in Ljubljana (Slovenia), during the annual ICORN assembly, Danuta Glondys, Director of the Villa Decius Association, was elected to the Board of ICORN. This prestigious body includes also representatives of other ICORN member cities: Peter Ripken (Frankfurt), Leikny Haga Indergaard (Bergen), Jasmina Arambašić (Ljubljana), Annika Strömberg (Uppsala), Chris Gribble (Norwich).

For more information about our ICORN writers, click here.