Monem Mahjoub, Libyan poet, philosopher, historian and political critic, became the seventh beneficiary of ICORN’s scholarship programme. We are always happy to introduce the next literary personality who found himself under the wing of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) – says Izabela Helbin, director of the Krakow Festival Office – Literary independence, freedom of speech and human rights are all timely subjects, so we are incredibly proud that Krakow is once again able to provide a refuge, this time for the eminent Libyan political critic and poet.
Mahjoub, born in 1963, is a doctor of philosophy with notable academic achievements, author of over 25 scholarly books (philosophy, linguistics, history, politics). He specialises in linguistics. He devoted a large part of his career to exploring the origins of Arabic language and the local languages of North Africa. He also studied Berber tribes in Libya and the Maghreb. Author and promoter of the thesis that Arabic and Afroasiatic languages have Sumerian roots.
From 1988-2016 he published over 45 research papers and articles in Arab scientific journals.
Mahjoub is a co-founder of Tanit publishing company (established in 1995). He also held important functions in the Arab world of culture. He was an adviser of International Affairs magazine, editor in chief of Fadaat (2002-2010) and The Independent (2015-2016), and coordinator of the Afro-Asian Linguistics Forum (2005-2010).
Alongside his scientific activities, Mahjoub is also highly active as journalist. Strong advocate of a critical view on the history of Islam. Deeply critical of the post-Arab spring radicalisation of Libya.
He was intimidated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012, facing particularly strong threats after the publication of the book Warraq’s Charm. In fear for his life, he decided to defect to Tunisia. However, he still could not feel safe there, especially after his book Manifesto against Islamic Priesthood sparked major controversy in the Middle East. He fell foul of radicals with his theory on the corruption of Islam in the 20th century and the misappropriation of this religion by the clergy who place regional tribal traditions above the universal message from the Quran and from Islam of its earliest centuries.
Apart from his scientific and journalistic work, Monem Mahjoub PhD is a poet; he published three poetry volumes: The Book of Illusion, Recital and Whenever Wine Beams.
Krakow – City of Literature, City of Refuge
The event will be organised under the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Programme. Awareness-raising activities concerning human rights, freedom of speech and expression are an important element in the City of Literature strategy.
The International Cities of Refuge Network, which offers a place of refuge to writers and human rights defenders who cannot live and create freely in their own countries because of persecutions, was formed in 2006 in Norway. 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 programme 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. 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. Since 2006, over a hundred writers and artists have found refuge in ICORN member cities.
The most famous beneficiary of ICORN’s fellowship, from 2006-2008, is Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, prominent Belarusian reporter, creator of the unique reporting method called the “collective novel” or “novel-oratorio.” Alexievich has recently received the Stanisław Vincenz New Culture of New Europe Award, presented at the Economic Forum in Krynica, Poland.
In 2011, Krakow joined the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), as the first Slavonic city, in accordance with Resolution No. XVI/171/11 of the Council of the City of Krakow of May 25, 2011. Since then, Krakow has hosted six writers under its residency programmes: Maria Amelie (real name Madina Salamova, from North Ossetia, now in Norway), Kareem Amer (from Egypt, now in Norway), Mostafa Zamaninija (Iran), Lavon Barshcheusky (Belarus), Aslı Erdoğan (Turkey) and Felix Kaputu (Congo). Organisers of the ICORN International Cities of Refuge Network Programme are the City of Krakow, the Krakow Festival Office, and the Villa Decius Association, which conduct the fellowship programme, provide care and a place for creative work.
International cooperation within the ICORN has a strategic position in the Krakow UNESCO City of Literature Programme, in view of the development strategy comprising ten thematic areas: developing ties between literature and human rights, integrating diverse forms of literary activities, creating links between literature, new media and creative industries, influencing attitudes towards reading, organizing literary events and festivals, supporting the book industry, bringing literature into the public sphere, developing scholarship programmes, deepening international cooperation in the literary sector, literary education.