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International Cities of Refuge Network

Facing 99 lashes and years in prison, poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari & Mehdi Mousavi fled Iran for Turkey in late 2015. In March 2017 they arrived in Lillehammer City of Refuge with the ICORN residency programme.

The International City of Refuge Network (ICORN) has long been one of PEN International's most important partners.

ICORN is an independent organisation of cities and regions offering shelter to writers and artists at risk, advancing freedom of expression, defending democratic values and promoting international solidarity. The Protection team at PEN International's headquarters in London collaborate closely with ICORN on their work with writers applying to join the programme, and many of our Centres support and help to host their local guest writer.

ICORN member cities offer long term, but temporary, shelter to those at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities. Their aim is to be able to host as many persecuted writers and artists as possible in ICORN cities and together with sister networks and organisations, to form a dynamic and sustainable global network for freedom of expression.

Through the Make Space campaign, PEN International will be working with ICORN to promote the work of guest writers past and present, as well as creating professional creative opportunities for them. What's more, we will work with our PEN Centres around the world to co-explore the potential of new ICORN cities twinned with PEN Centres, and supported by our membership.