Last week Arifur Rahman (27) arrived safely in snow-covered Drøbak, Norway. He is ICORNs first cartoonist and Drøbak City of Refuge's first Guest Writer. Rahman has been an advocate against social injustice and corruption in Bangladesh.
In 2007 Arifur Rahman was imprisoned and received serious threats from extremist islamists after a newspaper published one of his cartoons. The cartoon was depicting a cat named Muhammad (see left), and was not meant as an insult to the Prophet.
Rahman has finally arrived in Drøbak and the ICORN staff is both happy and excited about getting him to safety after months of hard work:
It has been a long and difficult process, says Elisabeth Dyvik (ICORN). We would like to thank all involved, especially the Cartoonists Rights Network International, and Robert Russel, for their cooperation.
We are happy and proud to be able to welcome Arifur Rahman to Drøbak, the worlds first City of Refuge for cartoonists, says mayor of Drøbak Thore Vestby. We are well aware of our responsibility in the fight to preserve freedom of expression, particularly for the newspaper cartoonists that are especially threatened.
In Drøbak the Avistegnernes Hus (House of Newspaper Cartoonists) has been central in the process of including the city in the ICORN network. Their Chairman, Helge G. Simonsen, finds it important for his insititution to be involved in this work:
Avistegnerenes Hus is a centre for cartoons and freedom of expression. It is therefore natural that we in a globalised world take our share of the responsibility for cartoons and freedom of expression.