In 2015 ICORN received over 100 application for the first time ever, this continued in 2016 and the prognoses predicts we might even receive a higher number of applications this year.
“The trend so far this year is more women, more journalists and Iranians,” says Marianne Hovdan, ICORN’s Programme Officer.
WOMEN AND JOURNALISTS
ICORN has always had more male applicants than female. “The reason for this is most likely a complex one, but it is not unthinkable that one of the reasons is that gender equality is also missing in many of the countries where freedom of expression is suffering”, explains Hovdan, adding that “women who express themselves are often persecuted both for what they say and for being women speaking. This means they are often double at risk”.
In 2017, ICORN has seen a sharp increase in the number of female applicants, as of June 15th 26 percent of our applicants are female. “The rise in female applicants can of course be just a coincident, but it will be interesting to see if the trend continues throughout the year”, says Hovdan. Since persecuted female writers and artists are particularly vulnerable, we are happy that ICORN cities recognize this as we see that the chance of being invited to an ICORN city is statistically higher if you are a woman than a man.
ICORN has seen a significant increase in the number of applications from journalists during the last two years, 2017 is no different. Almost half of the applications ICORN has received this year are from journalists. “This is not surprising”, Hovdan says, “Journalism is increasingly becoming a dangerous profession, not only in the traditional conflict zones”.
In addition to the number of applications from journalists there has been a slight increase in the number of musicians and artists applying, though the large majority of the applicants are people using words to express themselves.
The applicants’ countries of origin are places most people will recognize from recent news headlines, such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Turkey, in addition to Ethiopia. However, the largest amount of applications to ICORN this year, come from Iran.
2016 was not a good year for human rights in Iran; although president Rouhani made promises of greater respect for civil and political rights this has not happened. Prior to the recent elections in May, when Rouhani was reelected, human rights organizations reported crackdown on citizens for the legitimate exercise of their rights. Iranian dual nationals and citizens returning from abroad were at particular risk of arrest by intelligence authorities, accused of being “Western agents.” Iran has long been known as the world’s largest prison of journalists, though Turkey might now hold that title, with little room for freedom of expression. Iranian authorities continued to arrest and charge journalists, bloggers and online media activists. Women, LGBTQ and religious minorities also face discrimination. Hovdan adds that “almost all the applicants from Iran had already fled the country when they contacted ICORN, and they report that going back home is either impossible or very dangerous”.
NEW ARRIVALS AND PLACEMENTS
“Informing a persecuted writer or artist that he or she has been invited to an ICORN city is without doubt the best part of this job”, Marianne Hovdan says. During the first half of 2017, ICORN cities welcomed 11 writers and artists; six men and five women. If counting in the family members some of them brought along, the number of people brought to safety rises to 19. The new members of the ICORN family are from Syria, Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Russia, Eritrea and Bahrain. We are also happy to report that another 14 writers and artists has so far been invited and are “on their way” to an ICORN residency.