Iranian women’s rights activist offered protection in Malmö, Sweden


Published in Swedish daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet on Thursday, 4 March 2010.
Source (Swedish):
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring

By Björn Sjö and Ulf Clarén
Published on 4 March 2010, 9:08 am. Updated on 4 march 2010, 9:14 am.

Malmö is set to become the safe haven for Iranian writer and human rights activist Parvin Ardalan. The city is offering to pay for her housing and living expenses for a period of one of two years.

On Wednesday, the executive board of the city of Malmö adopted a decision to provide a grant amounting to 300,000 Swedish kronor to offer refuge to a writer who has been forced to flee from his or her home country. In doing so, the city of Malmö joins the ranks of 26 cities of refuge around the world which offer protection to writers living under threat.

“There is still a formal application that needs to be signed, so I cannot announce the name yet”, says Anna Lyrevik, interim cultural director of the city of Malmö.

According to information obtained by Sydsvenska Dagbladet, the person in question is the Iranian writer, human rights activist and winner of the Olof Palme Prize Parvin Ardalan.

She is currently attending the United Nations Women’s Conference held this week in New York. Sydsvenska Dagbladet has not succeeded in reaching her for a comment.

Her Swedish-Iranian writer colleague Azar Mahloujian has also learned that Parvin Ardalan is to become the first writer to be offered refuge by the city of Malmö.

Azar Mahloujian is the spokeswoman of the Writers in Prison Committee and a member of the board of directors of Swedish PEN. International PEN is one of the organisations that decide on which individuals are in need of protection.

“This is very good news for Parvin. She will be given the opportunity to work in Malmö for an entire year without having to be afraid of the [Iranian] authorities and censorship”, Azar Mahloujian tells Sydsvenska Dagbladet.

She reports that Parvin Ardalan has been staying in Sweden ever since she arrived in the country last autumn to receive the Olof Palme Prize which she was hindered from collecting in 2008, when Iranian police arrested her after forcing her off her Stockholm-bound plane at Tehran’s airport.

A few months later, she was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for writing and publishing articles on how Iranian legislation discriminates against women.

Despite several suspended prison sentences being issued against her, the Iranian authorities have not succeeded in shutting her up.

Malmö’s commitment to serve as a city of refuge implies that the city will provide for the writer’s living expenses and accommodation for a period of one year, which may be renewed for another year. No services are required in return.

“If the writer wishes to simply stay in his or her flat and write, he or she is free to do so. But many will most probably want to do more than that, and if a writer wishes to engage in activities here, we will naturally help him or her to establish the necessary contacts”, interim cultural director Anna Lyrevik says.

The head of Malmö’s public library, Elsebeth Tank, is one of the municipal directors who have declared an interest in helping out in this respect. In an internal memo forwarded to the library’s staff, she stresses the importance of building up a network around the writer and asks for suggestions as to who could imagine being part of that network.

According to Anna Lyrevik, the idea of Malmö becoming a city of refuge has been pushed forward by the city’s administrative staff for several years.

“The most important thing is to provide protection for the writers. But in addition, this can also be beneficial to Malmö’s cultural life, of course.”


One Response to “Iranian women’s rights activist offered protection in Malmö, Sweden”

  1. Daniela Says:

    How encouraging to see this example of international support, and that we humans are first citizens of the world. Hopefully more cities will be inspired to do the same !

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