Persecuted and censored

13. 2. 2020
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Ljubljana is currently hosting a meeting of the Board of Directors of ICORN (The International Cities of Refuge Network), an organization that protects democratic value and fosters international solidarity.

Art emancipates. It breaks down conventions and norms, commandments and regulations, tradition and, ironically, culture. A writer’s life should thus be a life of freedom. As should the life of a thinker, a critic, a theoretician, a creator of ever new stories, characters, and questions. However, the very emancipatory potential of their art often puts artists at odds with authoritarian, tyrannical, populist authorities that come to see them as dangerous and potentially subversive. Such authorities decry such artists as useless and undesirable and strive – more than anything else – to silence them.


To silence somebody is to censor them, to persecute them, deprive them of their freedom and, in extreme cases, sentence them to death. Writers faced with such persecution will of course, if they’re able to, flee their countries; however, it’s less obvious that other countries will provide them with an appropriate refuge.


Every year, over a hundred artists experience persecution in one form or another. Every year, some of them are killed.


In the early 2000s, a number of known authors raised their voice in order to resolve this issue. Among them was Salman Rushdie, an acclaimed author against whom a fatwa was issued by Iran in 1989.


In collaboration with Norwegian and international PEN associations, representatives of 15 cities established ICORN (The International Cities of Refuge Network) in Stavanger in 2006 as an independent association of cities and regions that offer asylum to persecuted authors and thus protect democratic values and foster international solidarity.


Ljubljana has been a member of the network since 2011. Since then, the city has provided two-year residencies to four authors from Morocco, Ethiopia and Iraq. Ljubljana is thus currently hosting a meeting of the Board of Directors of ICORN, which is of course also attended by Chairman Chris Gribble from Norwich, who has expressed great satisfaction with the work of the organisation, whose membership currently numbers as many as 75 cities, which have provided refuge to over 200 authors.

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