The story teller

Click on the alphabetical list to read the writers' biographies.

Sihem Bensedrine

Tunisian journalist and writer prevented from working in her own country because of her involvement in human rights. She faced a long term persecution and reprisals against her and her family.


A graduate of philosophy of the University of Toulouse (France), Sihem Bensedrine has been engaged in the fight for the human rights in Tunisia since 1980. As a journalist, she made her debut in the independent press which prospered in the 80s. This was the beginning of a fight for press freedom. This fighting also extended to the feminist sphere where she was at the origin of the birth of a women's club, Club Tahar Haddad, and of Nissa, a feminist magazine.
Bensedrine is now editor in chief of the online magazine Ka¬lima and Radio Kalima(web and satellite radio. Kalima was denied registration after five attempts to register.  


Safaa Alwan

Safaa Alwan is the ICORN Guest Writer in Skien City of Refuge. He worked as an editor, journalist and writer in his homeland of Iraq, which he had to flee in 2009.

Pegah Ahmadi

Pegāh Ahmadi is an Iranian poet, scholar, literary critic and translator of poetry. She is currently the ICORN Guest Writer in Frankfurt City of Refuge.


Ahmadi made her début as a poet at age seventeen by the publication of a poem in the literary magazine Takāpu. She has studied Persian literature at the University of Tehran, and regularly contributed to literary magazines on subject matters related to criticism of verse, theoretical issues pertaining to poetry and translation of poems. She is a member of Iranian Writers Association. In 2007 she was awarded the Celebrity of Poetry Award of the Iranian Journalists' Institute. Ahmadi has published several books of poetry, anthologies, literary reviews and translation of American poetry (like Sylvia Plath). Before coming to Germany, she worked as editor of the literary review Paperik and taught "Poetry in cinema" at the Film School Tehran.


Manal Al-Sheikh

Poet from Iraq. Al-Sheikh has been a very active participant in the Arab Union of Writers since 1993, and has published collections of her own poetry as well as editing an anthology of modern Iraqi poetry.


Manal Al-Sheikh is from Nineveh in northern Iraq, and has a degree in English translation from the College of Arts at Mosul University. She has freelanced for a number of local newspapers, as well as the She'riat Magazine in Libya. Al-Sheikh participated in all sessions of the Annual Mosul University Festival of Creativity, as well as in several forums specializing in Iraqi fiction in Baghdad, three consecutive sessions of the Mirbad Festival of Poetry, and the Iqamat Ibdaeiya (Creative Residencies) event in Algeria.


She has published poetry and essays in several Iraqi and international Arabic newspapers. Her first book, "Inhirafut-tawabeet" ("The Deviation of Coffins"), was published by the Iraqi Union of Writers in Nineveh in 1996. In 2007, she edited and published "Umaraur-ruaa" ("Princes of Imaginative Visions"), an anthology of modern Iraqi poetry, and published "Assfar Alo'zlah" ("Books of Seclusion") in Egypt in 2008. A collection of poetic narrative titled "Kadmu Dhaheratin Mukaddada" ("Biting Through a Chopped Moon") is to be published in Syria in 2009, and "Belnokta elhamraa tahta eynhi elyousrah" ("With a red dot under his left eye") is also forthcoming.


Manal Al-Sheikh is currently the ICORN Guest Writer of Stavanger City of
Refuge. You can listen to an interview with Al-Sheikh here, and hear her read her poem Pennylessness here.

Manal Alsheikh Aftenposten.pdf260.67 KB

Islam Elsanov

Islam Elsanov is a filmmaker and writer from Chechnya, and a former ICORN Guest Writer of Stavanger City of Refuge. He has worked as a journal and book editor in Grozni, and is currently working on a documentary.

Gilles Dossou-Gouin

Novelist, poet and human rights activist Gilles Dossou-Gouin is originally from Benin, and now a former ICORN Guest Writer of Molde City of Refuge. Before coming to Norway, he lived in exile in Senegal.

Boubacar Boris Diop

Novelist and, anti-colonialist and political activist Boubacar Boris Diop finished his first novel before even finishing high school. He is from Senegal, and has been the ICORN Guest Writer of Casa Refugio in Mexico City.

Faraj Bayrakdar

Faraj Bayrakdar of Syria is a journalist and poet, and the ICORN Guest Writer of Stockholm City of Refuge. Bayrakdar was imprisoned for nearly 15 years, suspected of belonging to the Party for Communist Action.

Soudabeh Alishahi

Soudabeh Alishahi, former ICORN Guest Writer in Oslo City of Refuge, worked as a high school teacher in Iran. She also wrote short stories focusing on controversial subjects such as women's rights.

Svetlana Alexievich

Svetlana Alexievich from Ukraine is a former ICORN Guest Writer of Gothenburg City of Refuge. Her award-winning works have been the basis for documentary films focusing on witnessing and national crisis. 

Carlos A. Aguilera

The Cuban poet, writer and cultural critic, Carlos A. Aguilera has been the ICORN Guest Writer in Frankfurt City of Refuge since August 2007. He is currently working on a new book.

Dejan Anastasijevic

Serbian Dejan Anastasijevic is the ICORN Guest Writer in writer Brussels. He is an investigative journalist and writer, and has freelanced for Time Magazine and The Guardian among others.

Ayaz Khonsyawashan

The Kurdish poet and journalist from Iran has contributed to several Kurdish and Persian journals of literature, politics, arts and culture. Khonsyawashan became a member of the Mariwan Committee on Literature in 1991. Three years later he published the only journal using the Kurdish language in Iran at that time.


Before having to flee to Iraq due to persecution based on his cultural and political activities, he took part in the founding, running, and editing of several cultural journals. From 2003 until 2007, he lived in Turkey, where he was a founding member of the Writers Union of Eastern Kurdistan, of which he is still a board member.


He was initially invited as an ICORN Guest Writer by Oslo City of Refuge, but was not granted permission to leave Turkey. He was eventually invited to Bergen City of Refuge in 2007. Khonsyawashan has also written a novel, he is working on translating his poems into Norwegian, and he is actively working to help other persecuted writers.

Musa Mutaev

Short story writer, novelist, teacher and journal editor Musa Mutaev was born in Kyrgyztan, but grew up in Chechnya. He is a former ICORN Guest Writer in Trondheim City of Refuge.

Basim Mardan

Basim Mardan is a writer and playwright from Iraq. He was a librarian in Mosul before taking a job as a translator for the US Army. He is a former ICORN Guest Writer of Skien City of Refuge, where he still lives with his family.

Mansour Koushan

Mansour Koushan comes from Iran where he worked as a theater producer and director, television screenwriter and novelist. He is a former ICORN Guest Writer of Stavanger City if Refuge and edits a literary journal.

Irakli Kakabadze

Irakli Kakabadze is a prose writer, performance poet and lyricist. He is also a passionate activist. He comes from Georgia, but currently lives in Ithaca where he teaches at Cornell University.

Anisur Rahman

Anisur Rahman, the first official ICORN Guest Writer in Uppsala, is a poet, playwright, literary critic, essayist, novelist, translator and journalist from Bangladesh.


Anisur Rahman writes for newspapers in Bangladesh, Sweden and elsewhere alongside participating in debate and literary programmes on various occasions in Uppsala and other cities. He is a member of the Swedish Writers' Union, the Swedish Foreign Press Association, Writers' Centre in Stockholm and is an honorary member of Swedish PEN. Born in Madhupur, Tangail, Bangladesh in 1978, Anisur Rahman studied English Literature and Linguistics alongside Bengali and History at the University of Dhaka. He has published two collections of poems in Bengali and another in English. He translates poems and plays from English to Bengali and from Bengali to English. His translation of Henrik Ibsen's poems in Bengali was published in 2006. His Bengali novel Oi Andhakar Ase (The Dark Sounds) appeared in April 2009. Rahman's collection of poems is being translated to Swedish to be published later this year. He scripted two plays - Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea in Bengali. His latest publication is The Absent Poet and Other Essays - a collection of 40 essays on aesthetic traditions and socio-cultural aspects of Bengali poetry and plays. He has visited India, France, Mexico, Sweden and the UK on invitation to different international literary conferences and festivals. He lectured on perspectives of translating poetry and Henrik Ibsen as a poet at the Universidad del Claustro da Sor Juana in Mexico City in 2006. In 2008, he participated in the Writers and Literary Translators International Congress in Stockholm, where he presented a paper on "The Importance of Mother Tongue - The spirit of International Mother Language Day".

Photo: Fredrik Haglund

Aziz Sangtarash

Aziz Sangtarash from Iran, former ICORN Guest Writer of Oslo City of Refuge, is a short story writer, editor and poet. He is a member of the Iranian Writers' Union, and was persecuted, imprisoned and censored in Iran.

Mansur Rajih

As a young university student, Mansur Rajih's poetry was published in local newspapers. His work was critical of the Yemeni regime, and in 1983 he was arrested and imprisoned under the guise of a murder charge.



The following year he was sentenced to death. For fifteen years organizations such as PEN International and Amnesty International campaigned for Mansur's release, which was finally granted in 1998 when he was flown directly from prison to Stavanger City of Refuge.



Since that time Mansur Rajih has written and published three volumes of poetry, bi-lingual collections with poems in Norwegian and Arabic: Horoskop: Fengsel? Horoskop: Kjærleik. (2000), Så langt borte: Så nær (2003) and Min brors smerte (2008). His life (thus far) has also been the subject of several short films.



To read a Norwegian newspaper article on Mansur Rajih, go here . To read four of his poems in English, go here . To read poems in Norwegian and Arabic, go here . To listen to a recording of Mansur Rajih reading his poetry, go here .


Salem Zenia

Zènia is a journalist, poet and novelist, and the ICORN Guest Writer of Barcelona City of Refuge. He writes in the Kabylic-Berber language of Amazigh, and is a human rights activist. His books are prohibited in Algeria.

Nada Yousif

Nada Yousif is a poet and journalist from Iraq. Her writing centers mainly on women's rights issues and the current socio-political situation in Iraq. She is currently the ICORN Guest Writer in the city of Molde.

Amin Ghazaei

Amin Ghazaei from Iran is an activist of the leftist student movement in Iran and a writer and journalist with a broad curriculum of articles in different Iranian journals.


For his political activities and writings, he was arrested 2007 by the Iranian government, interrogated and tortured. Next to his political engagement, he is accepted as one of Iran's prominent theoreticians in the fields of philosophy, feminism, and Marxism, where he has written and translated an acknowledged portfolio of books and papers. He is curretly the ICORN Guest Writer in Amsterdam City of Refuge.

Philo Ikonya

Philo Ikonya is a Kenyan writer, journalist and human rights activist, and presently Oslo City of Refuge's ICORN Guest Writer. She was elected president of Kenyan PEN in 2007.


Ikonya has written articles for journals, web magazines and blogs, often commenting on the social and political situation in Kenya. She has also written poetry and novels, among these, the novel "Kenya, will you marry me". She has worked as a lecturer of semiotics at Tangaza College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, and as a a socio-political commentator in both radio and television. Philo Ikonya was threatened and harassed for her work and political activism, and can no longer work in Kenya.

Hossein Heidary

The Kurdish journalist, director and actor from Iran was one of the founders of "Andeshe", a Kurdish-Persian journal, in 1997. He also worked as a journalist in "Tishk" and "Aso", and was part of a theater group in Mariwan.


He has taken part in, and won awards at, several culture festivals as an actor in and a director of plays and films.


In 2007, Heidary fled to Southern Kurdistan (Iraq) when the Iranian government arrested his friend Adnan Hassanpour and sentenced him to death. Heidary has since been an active participant in the campaign for Hassanpour, whose sentence has been turned into a lifelong prison term as a result of the campaign. While in exile, Heidary works with the Kurdish-Pershian Xorhelat website, and continues to actively support persecuted writers.


Easterine Kire Iralu

Easterine Kiri Iralu From Nagaland, India, is the former ICORN Guest Writer of Tromsø City of Refuge. She is an author, English literature lecturer, and often includes musical elements in her storytelling.

Chenjerai Hove

Chenjerai Hove, former ICORN Guest Writer of Stavanger City of Refuge, was a senior literary editor with Zimbabwe Publishing House and a journalist. He writes poems and novels in both English and Shona.


Hove studied literature and education in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He was president of the Zimbabwe Writers Union from 1984 to 1989, President of PEN Zimbabwe from 1990 to 2007, and a founding member of the Board of Directors of Zimbabwe Human Rights Association from 1990 to 2000.


His novel Bones has won several international awards. Among these, "Best in Zimbabwe" Zimbabwe Literary Award in 1988, and the NOMA award in 1989.It was voted among the 100 Best Books of Africa in the last 100 years in 2002, and among the 10 Best Books of Zimbabwe in the last 100 years in 2003.


His novel Ancestors won Second Prize from the Zimbabwe Literary Awards in 1997.


In 2001, Chenjerai Hove was awarded the German-Africa Prize for Freedom of Expression and Thought from the German Africa Foundation. As a result of his criticism of Mugabe's current policy, he now lives in exile. Once a Guest Writer in France and Norway, he has later helped others to gain from his experiences as the Writers' Representative of the ICORN Advisory Group.


In 2007, the play Travel News was selected to be performed by Norwegian Theaters for Youth. In 2009, Hove co-edited Writers, Writing on Conflict in Africa with Okey Ndibe.


To read Chenjerai Hove's short story "Sacrifice", go here. To read "A Letter to my Mother", go here, and for an extended biography go here. You can also listen to Chenjerai Hove read "Changamire" in his native tongue Shona here.


Hove recently received a stipend from the The Norwegian Non-fiction Writers And Translators Association (NFF). He is working on a memoir where he interconnects his own personal journey with the political developments in Zimbabwe since 1980. 


Kosar Fattahi

Kosar Fattahi was the ICORN Guest Writer in Oslo City of Refuge 2007-2009. He was arrested several times for his use of the Kurdish language and was eventually forced to flee to Iraq as a UN refugee.

© 2011 - Sølvberget KF, Stavanger Cultural Centre p.o. box: 310 4002 Stavanger, Norway. Visiting address: Sølvberggt. 2, 4006 Stavanger | tel: +47 51507465 | fax: +47 51507025
Design & development Sømme | Back to top