The story of Gothenburg becoming a safe haven started with the conference "Political Prophets and the Word - The Fundamentalist Threat to Freedom of Expression" which took place at the Gothenburg Book Fair in 1995. The conference ended with Salman Rushdie, then chairman of the International Parliaments of Writers (IPW), proposed that Gothenburg should become Sweden's first sanctuary for persecuted writers. Gothenburg started out as a city of refuge in 1996, and since then 24 more Swedish cities and regions has joined ICORN, creating safe spaces for more than 60 persecuted writers and artists from around the world.
Cities as actors for human rights and freedom of expression
ICORN and its partners sparks off the anniversary celebration with a two days’ freedom of expression event studio programme at the Gothenburg Book Fair 24 – 25 September. The Freedom of Speech Square will host conversations about human rights, threats to democracy, and about many countries and areas where freedom of expression is under increased pressure. Many prolific past & current ICORN writers and artists are among the speakers: Ahmad Azzam, Easterine Kire, Khaled Harara, Khalid Albaih, Jude Dibia, Fikret Atay, Mahdieh Golroo, Abdalla Basher and Ali Thareb.
Without cities like Gothenburg standing up for freedom of expression and hosting persecuted artists with dedication and perseverance, ICORN can do nothing. The city’s 25 years anniversary as a city of refuge offers a perfect opportunity to underline the importance that more cities in Sweden and beyond follow Gothenburg’s example and becomes active champions for solidarity, creativity and hospitality. - Helge Lunde, Executive Director, ICORN
Freedom of expression in focus for two full days
The freedom of expression event studio programme at the book fair is financed with the support of the Nordic Culture Fund and the Nordic Cultural Contact, and will host in total about 20 stage talks and discussions. The event series is organized by ICORN, Gothenburg Book Fair, the City of Gothenburg, Hanaholmen Cultural Center, Jonsereds Herrgård University of Gothenburg, Swedish PEN, Reporters Without Borders, Swedish UNESCO Council, Scholars At Risk, Freemuse, Safe Haven & Freedom Talks, Stig Dagermansällskapet, Jämställdhetsmyndigheten and Utgivarna.
In view of the severe situation for journalists, writers, artists and musicians currently living in countries like Afghanistan and Belarus, it feels extra important and promising that so many actors have come together to focus on freedom of expression. We hope that our event studio can inspire more cities to join ICORN and offer refuge to persecuted writers and artists. - Karin Hansson, National Coordinator ICORN Sweden and Coordinator Freedom of Expression event studio.
Some highlights from the program:
Sudanese artist and cultural entrepreneur Khalid Albaih has just concluded his ICORN residency in Copenhagen. Hear him in conversation with ICORN director Helge Lunde on how cities and artists can change the world together through creativity, solidarity and hospitality.
Silencing artists as ‘terrorists’ – the impact of counterterror legislation
In response to this new reality for artistic freedom, Freemuse and ICORN will host a conversation on the impact of anti-terror legislation with artists deemed ‘terrorists’ for their artistic expressions.
Art under pressure - Reclaiming creative voices
In this talk organised by ICORN and Scholars At Risk, Fikret Atay, visual artist and former ICORN resident who lives and works in Örebro, Yasemin Çongar, journalist, editor and translator based in Turkey, and Ahmet Gürata, senior visiting scholar at Institute of Turkish Studies, Stockholm University meet to discuss the systemic crackdown of freedom of expression in Turkey that has led to many writers and academics being jailed, and others forced to flee the country
Anne Applebaum: Democracy and Disinformation
How does the information war of our time affect democracy? Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum has for the past decade been a relentless critic of the authoritarian development in Europe and the United States and gained international attention for her latest book «Twilight Of Democracy».
Applebaum will deliver this year's ICORN lecture, in cooperation with PEN International, Kapittel, Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech, and the Book Fair in Gothenburg.