Forbidden Voices – travels to the frontiers of expression, based on the stories of six writers and artists in ICORN residencies, was launched at the Frankfurt Bookfair 16 October by Karl Ove Knausgård, Pelikanen Publishing, the authors Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga, and featured writer Asli Erdogan.
– This is an incredibly important book. Its an incredibly good book, and eye-opening book.
Karl Ove Knausgård said at the launch of Forbidden Voices.
The publisher of the book is the Norwegian publishing house Pelikanen Forlag, based in Stavanger. It is owned by Karl Ove Knausgård and was established in 2010 to publish literature, fiction and non-fiction of high quality.
Karl Ove Knausgaard at launch of Forbidden voices – travels to the frontiers of expression by Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad. ICORN. Photo.
Travels to the frontiers of freedom of expression
What drives some people to speak up even if it might cost them their lives? Authors and Stavanger Aftenblad journalists Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga visited six writers and artists in ICORN residency in their cities of refuge and then visited their home countries in an attempt to understand their background, their motivation and the conditions under which the artists have lived and worked in Cuba, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, Palestine and Sri Lanka. But this is also a book about the exile experience of six displaced fates in the cities Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Paris, Bergen and Ithaca NY.
In the book, we meet Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo – Reykjavik/Cuba; Ratan Kumar Samadder – Bergen/Bangladesh; Khaled Harara – Gothenburg/Palestine; Sonali Samarasinghe – Ithaca, New York/Sri Lanka; Mana Neyestani – Paris/Iran; Asli Erdogan – Frankfurt/Turkey.
Writer Asli Erdogan was present and did a reading in connection with the launch of Forbidden Voices, which contains a reportage about her, at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019.
The reportages were first published as an article series in Norwegian newspapers in 2017. It was later translated into English with support from the Fritt Ord Foundation. A new portrait was added to the series this year, featuring Turkish author Asli Erdogan who found refuge in Frankfurt after her release from prison in 2017. She was arrested as part of the governments crack-down on writers and journalists following the attempted coup d’état in Turkey in 2016.
Book-launch at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019
Stavanger Aftenblad’s journalists and authors of Forbidden voices, Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga, presents the project to the audience during the booklaunch at ICORN’s stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019.
In a common effort with the City of Stavanger and several local cultural actors, writers and artists, ICORN had a stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair in connection with the Norway Guest of Honour 2019. Forbidden voices was launched on the first day, Wednesday 16 October, in the presence of Karl Ove Knausgård, Pelikanen publishing, the authors, Stavanger Aftenblad’s journalists Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga, and featured writer Asli Erdogan. At the launch Daily manager of Pelican Publishing Eirik Bø presented the book saying:
– It’s a great opportunity to be able to join forces with ICORN, which is also situated in Stavanger, and also with two Stavanger Aftenblad journalists, Jan Zahl and Finn E. Våga, who made this project happen. It couldn’t be a better place to launch this book than exactly here, where also the book has a chapter here in Frankfurt with Asli Erdogan, at the Stavanger and ICORN stand.
The Crown Prince of Norway, Haakon Magnus, was given a copy of Forbidden Voices by Karl Ove Knausgård while visiting the ICORN stand pre-launch of the book. He met cartoonist Ali Dorani, aka Mr. Eaten Fish, who told his own story about his 4 years in an Australian run detention camp in Manus Island. Photo.
This is the article we issued about the series when first published in Norwegian newspapers in 2017. Here is a link to the presentation of the series: Forbidden Voices – the battle for freedom of expression
Ein dag blei Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo kalla inn på sjefens kontor. Der fekk den unge forskaren sparken – og framtidsplanane hans blei knuste. Orlando hadde kritisert Fidel Castros Cuba.Publisert: Publisert: 26. mai 2017
Words can be dangerous. Words can be fatal. Why do some people dare to speak when this means risking their lives? Two Norwegian journalists met five ICORN residents in their cities of refuge, and visited their home countries in an attempt to answer this question.
The freedom to express yourself, conscious that this is a basic human right, is for many people in this world not self-evident. ICORN writers and artists in residence have all had to flee their countries, their homes. Not because they wanted to, but because it became dangerous to stay.
Saturday 27 May, the Norwegian daily, Stavanger Aftenblad, started a series called Forbidden Voices – the battle for freedom of expression. They have visited five ICORN residents in their cities of refuge, and then visited their home countries, to look into the terms of freedom of expression and how some people dare to speak even when it can cost them their lives.
Around the world with those who leave and those who stay
With strong support from their newspaper, and from the Fritt Ord foundation, the two reporters from Stavanger Aftenblad, Jan Zahl and Finn Våga, began the project a year ago.
– We wanted to make more than just the regular reportage about the individual person who had to flee. We also wanted to visit the countries they left, the atmosphere they no longer were able to be part of. And we have met those who have chosen to stay and continue the struggle in spite of the imminent danger they face because of their work. We have met people with strong stories, people who risk their lives when they speak, write, draw and blog.
Jan Zahl, journalist, Stavanger Aftenblad
Finn Våga and Jan Zahl, journalists at the Norwegian daily, Stavanger Aftenblad. ©Jarle Aasland, Stavanger Aftenblad
– We are very exited about this project. Stavanger Aftenblad, Zahl and Våga have invested an impressive amount of time and resources into telling the stories of the ICORN writers and artists, and for this we are grateful. Spending a whole day in the company of each of them, Orlando, Ratan, Khaled, Sonali and Mana, and then visiting their homes, their friends, families and colleagues, does not only provide a significant view into the challenges of exile and of living in a country where freedom of expression and other basic rights are restricted, it gives an intimate insight into the complexity of considerations that lie behind the decision to stay or to leave your home – and why they continue to speak in spite of imminent danger to their lives. We sincerely hope that the series will be widely read and hopefully it’ll also be translated into English, to enable an even larger public to be acquainted with these great people.
Helge Lunde, Director of ICORN
The project was presented to the participants during the ICORN Network Meeting in Lillehammer earlier June this year.
The series are available digitally at Stavanger Aftenblad, and a podcast, Forbudte stemmer – kampen for ytringsfriheten (Forbidden voices – the fight for freedom of expression), has also been produced. Here are five teasers to the series and links to the articles and podcasts. All are currently in Norwegian.
The island leaper – Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
One day, the young Cuban Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was called to his manager’s office. He was fired, and later had to leave Cuba. What did a legendary party of chess in Iceland in 1972 have to do with this?
Revolution propaganda/commercia in Cuba. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
One day in April 1999, Orlando was called into his boss’ office in Havana. A few minutes later, the young biochemist was out of a job. His academic career was in shambles. Orlando had thought it would be possible to think and talk freely about Fidel Castro’s Cuba amongst other scientists. But it was not. Orlando could no longer be trusted. He started writing, taking photographs. He published books, won awards – and was arrested several times, defined as a dissident.
Street in Havana, Cuba. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Orlando left Cuba for the US in 2013. He was an ICORN writer-in-residence in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2015-2016. He is currently a graduate Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, USA.
Article: Øyhopparen frå Havanna (1 Norwegian krone for 1 month access)
Podcast: Øyhopparen frå Havanna (free access)
In the shadow of death – Ratan Kumar Samadder
Imagine that your name appears on a death list. Others on the list, people you know, are killed in open streets with a machete. Would you go home and tell your wife that your name is on that list?
Dakha, Bangladesh © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
What would you do if your name suddenly appeared on a death list? Would you have kept it a secret? Ratan Kumar Samadder was a bank manager. At night, he was a popular blogger. He criticized the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and associated violence in Bangladesh, called for secularism and social justice in politics and education, and blogged about what he believed was wrong in Bangladesh society. He did not use his name, but somebody found out who he was, and put him on a death list. Islamic extremists in Bangladesh have killed several bloggers and writes in recent years. Very few of the attackers have been imprisoned.
Traffic in Dakha, Bangladesh. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Ratan Kumar Samadder in Bergen. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad.
Ratan has lived with his family in Bergen since 2015. He still blogs.
Article: I skuggen av døden (1 Norwegian krone for 1 month access)
Podcast: I skuggen av døden (free access)
From bombs to beats – Khaled Harara
When Khaled Harara realised that the car he was in was on its way to the police station, he was superhappy. He had feared something much worse. That they would take him to a remote area outside town, shoot him and leave him in a ditch. That Hamas would set an example. Show what happens to people who performs the music of the devil, rap, in Gaza.
To enter Gaza from Israel, you first need to go through a number of control posts, then a mile long iron cage, before new control posts meet you in Gaza. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Rap music was never very popular with Hamas, the Palestinian organization ruling in Gaza. Still, Khaled and his hip-hop friends embraced the music. They used it as a means of expression and to create a discussion about the political situation in Palestine. And at the same time critizing the lack of freedom of expression under the Hamas rule. After one of his concerts, Khaled was arrested. He was forced to sign a paper where he promised that he would respect Hamas rules.
Gaza honours their heroes in the streets. Here the belated Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat on the wall. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad.
Khaled Harara performed on the Swedish National Day 6 June in Gothenburg. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad.
Khaled came to Gothenburg with the ICORN programme in 2013, where he still lives.
Article: Trudde dei skulle skyta han og dumpa han i ei grøft (1 Norwegian krone for 1 month access)
Podcast: Trudde dei skulle skyta han og dumpa han i ei grøft (free access)
The mystery in Colombo – Sonali Samarasinghe
In September 2016, a grave is opened in Sri Lanka. From the grave, rises a skeleton dressed in suit. In New York, is widow of the editor in the grave, who wonders if she will finally learn who killed her husband.
Sri Lanka. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Sonali had been married for 12 days when her husband Lasantha Wickrematunge was brutally murdered. Sonali and Lasantha were both members of a small group of critical and fearless investigative journalists in Sri Lanka, an island scarred by decades of conflict and with an increasingly authoritarian president. Fearing for her own life, the award-winning journalist left Sri Lanka a few weeks after her husband’s murder in January 2009.
Sonali Samarasinghe at her office in the UN building in New York. She now works as a diplomat for the new government in Sri Lanka. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Sonali was ICORN writer in Ithaca, New York, in 2012-2014. She currently works as a diplomat for Sri Lanka’s new government in the United Nations in New York.
Article: Mysteriet i Colombo (1 Norwegian krone for 1 month access)
Podcast: Mysteriet i Colombo (free access)
Kafka and I – Mana Neyestani
In Paris sits a self-declared coward. Mana Neyestani understood that he was living a dangerous life drawing satirical cartoons in Iran. So, he stopped. He started drawing innocent cartoons for children instead. But one day, he wrote a word into one of the children’s’ cartoons. One innocent word. And hell broke loose.
Teheran, Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in after the revolution in 1979. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
One word from a small cockroach in a children’s magazine. Suddenly riots broke out and many people were killed. Mana Neyestani from Teheran is an award-winning cartoonist. He was imprisoned for three months in 2006 after a single cartoon frame highlighted the plight of the minority Azeri community in northwestern Iran. He fled while still awaiting trial. In his autobiographical graphic novel, Metamorphosis: The Iranian way, he describes the dramatic events that forced him and his wife on the run for years, through many countries.
Much is tolerated within the four walls of the house. In the streets, women have to wear head scarfs. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
Iran. © Finn Våga, Stavanger Aftenblad
He arrived in Paris city of refuge in 2011. He has recently published a new graphic novel L’Araignée de Mashhad (the Mashhad spider) and frequently publishes cartoons with critical comments on how political and religious leaders suppress people in his homeland.
Article and Podcast will be released on Saturday 24 June.
Writer, editor, journalist, photographer
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo is an award-winning Cuban writer, blogger and photo journalist. Arriving in Reykjavik in September 2015, Pardo Lazo came straight from an IWP fellowship at Brown University, a residency scholarship given to writers subjected to political harassment, imprisonment, or oppression in their country of origin.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo left Cuba in 2013, following the advent of migratory reforms launched by the government of Raul Castro. Labeled variously a ‘dissident’ and ‘counterrevolutionary’ in his native Cuba, Pardo Lazo was often targeted for his critical writings and peaceful activism. His struggle for freedom of expression in art and in social activism made Pardo Lazo subject to official censorship, including public defamation in governmental websites, job exclusion from the Cuban Radio and TV Institute (ICRT), anonymous threatening, interrogation by the political police, and arrests without charges.
Graduated a molecular biochemist in 1994, in 2000, Pardo Lazo began working as a freelance writer, blogger and photographer, publishing nationally-awarded short-fiction books in Cuba, including Collage Karaoke (2001), Empezar de cero (2001),Ipatrías (2005) and Mi nombre es William Saroyan (2006). His latest collection of short stories Boring Home (2009) was censored from being published in Cuba.
Pardo Lazo represents a movement in Cuban literature often called Generación Año Cero (Generation Zero), a group of writers in Cuba who started publishing in the 00’s. Seldom translated into English or distributed internationally, most of the new Cuban literature is rather unknown in the rest of the world. In 2014, Pardo Lazo edited an anthology of 11 short stories from “post-fidel” writers, translated into English, revealing a deconstruction in the perception of Cuban reality and mentality. The anthology is entitled, “Cuba In Splinters”.
Pardo Lazo is also a prolific contributor to renowned Cuban magazines and international digital and printed journals. He publishes literary criticism, creative writing and opinion pieces on a range of topics, including the human rights situation in Cuba. Among others, they include La Gaceta de Cuba, Diario de Cuba,PanAm Post, Sampsonia Way Magazine, The Huffington Post, In These Times, All Voices, Penúltimos Días, Cronopio magazine, Qué Pasa, The Prague Post,Cubaencuentro, Letras Libres, El Nuevo Herald, and El Nacional (Venezuela).
Since 2008, Pardo Lazo has edited a number of underground literary online magazines including Cacharro(s), The Revolutionary Evening Post, and Voces. He also runs a blog Lunes de Post-Revolución (and its English version Post-Revolution Mondays). In a parallel blog, Pardo Lazo publishes his photography. His photography has been celebrated by the New York Times Lens blog. See his photos Abandoned Havana on Restless books.