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Gallery: Five free expression exiles

IFEX marks World Refugee Day, 20 June 2013, with profiles of five people living in exile for practicing the right to free expression through their professions

Ali Abdulemam, blogger, Bahrain.
Ali Abdulemam, blogger, Bahrain.

AP/Hasan Jamali

Ali Abdulemam: After tweeting, “I get tired from my phone so I switched it of no need for rumours plz [sic],” on 17 March 2011, Bahraini blogger Ali Abdulemam, known as the “Blogfather of Bahrain”, was not heard from for over two years. Following the Bahraini government's declared state of emergency and crackdown on anti-government protesters, Abdulemam was sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison.

Following an elaborate escape from Bahrain, Abdulemam surfaced in the U.K. on 13 May 2013, announcing, again via Twitter, that he was “online”. While the prison sentence handed down by the Bahraini government technically makes him a fugitive from justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) Jason Stern calls Abdulemam “not so much a fugitive as an opposition voice in exile,” citing the U.K.'s decision to grant him amnesty as an indication of “political persecution.”

Mana Neyestani (R), cartoonist, and his wife Mansoureh, Iran.
Mana Neyestani (R), cartoonist, and his wife Mansoureh, Iran.

Cartoonists' Rights Network International

Mana Neyestani: Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani and his wife Mansoureh fled Iran following the 12 May 2006 publication of his cartoon by the government-funded weekend paper, Iran Friday. Violent protests calling for Neyestani's death took place despite his attempts to offer an apology and explanation, and he was also fired from his job in addition to being jailed in “protective custody”. While he was released two months later, he continued to receive threats of violence and further jail time.

After fleeing to Kuwait, Turkey and Malaysia, Neyestani and his wife eventually settled in France. He was the Recipient of the Cartoonists' Rights Network International (CRNI) 2011 Courage Award, and was recently lauded by both Iranian and Israeli moderates for his cartoons calling for peace between the two nations.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, writer, Vietnam.
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, writer, Vietnam.

AP/Thong Nhat

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy: Following her 22 June 2011 release from prison after serving a three-year prison sentence for assault, Vietnamese writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was forced into exile in the United States. A member of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, she was arrested on 8 October 2009 after two men reportedly attacked her husband soon after she had expressed her support for six dissidents on trial.

Liao Yiwu, author and musician, China.
Liao Yiwu, author and musician, China.

AP/Kai Pfaffenbach

Liao Yiwu: Following the publication of his poem “Massacre”, which decried the government crackdown at Tienanmen Square, acclaimed Chinese author, poet, and musician Liao Yiwu Liao Yiwu was arrested in 1990 and spent four years in prison, where he suffered ruthless torture and beatings, sometimes just for singing a song. Liao was taught to play the xiao by a Buddhist monk, his fellow prisoner.

Following his release, Liao was blacklisted by the Chinese government, who placed him under house arrest and banned him from leaving the country. His 2001 book, The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories from the Bottom Up, which was published in Taiwan and received international acclaim, was also banned in China. Liao for Berlin, Germany, via the Vietnamese border on 6 July 2011 and declared himself in exile, leaving behind his family and girlfriend.

Anna Dolidze, lawyer and academic, Georgia.
Anna Dolidze, lawyer and academic, Georgia.

Wikipedia Commons/Shmooz

Anna Dolidze: As President of the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA), Anna Dolidze was a leading human rights critic of the Georgian government who represented journalists, dissenting judges, and a witness in the Sandro Girgvliani murder case. After receiving threats, Dolidze was given sanctuary as a 2007 Podell Global Scholar at New York University Law School through Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international organisation that provides sanctuary to scholars in danger. She eventually settled at the University of Western Ontario, where she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law.

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