P.E.N. Programme “Writers in Exile”

Nuremberg is an official partner in the “writers in exile” program initiated by the German P.E.N. centre which has been giving persecuted writers a safe haven in German cities since 1999. The program was established in response to the increasing number of writers and journalists having to flee persecution and death threats. The initiative aims to enable them to live and work in freedom in Germany and offers them an opportunity to make German audiences familiar with their work through public readings and discussion events.

Since January 2011, Mansoureh Shojaee has lived in Nuremberg. She is one of the leading activists in the Iranian women’s movement, and works as an author and translator. She is a co-founder of the Women’s Cultural Centre (Markaze farhangi-ye zanan) and the Women’s Library (Sadiqe Dolatabadi) in Tehran, as well as one of the initiators of the campaign ”One Million Signatures for Equality” and of the website Feminist School. She has written more than 200 articles for various magazines, newspapers and women’s magazines, such as Gense Dowwom (The Second Sex) and Fasle zanan (The Season of Women), and for the website Feminist School. She has also gained renown as a translator. She worked as a librarian in the Tehran National Library for 22 years. Her activities since 2000 have included working with others on the planning and implementation of a mobile library for women and children, which involved successful co-operation with Iranian and international organisations such as UNICEF. Since 2008, following a suggestion by Shirin Ebadi, she has campaigned for the foundation of a Women’s Museum in Iran which was immediately forbidden in the initial implementation phase. On 27 December, 2009, she was arrested for the fourth time in four years. After one month in prison, she was freed on bail after paying a large sum, and following a 4-year ban on foreign travel was permitted to leave the country. Since then, she has been living and working in Germany.

Nuremberg is involved in this program in recognition of the city’s history during the National Socialist reign of terror. Nuremberg’s council feels it bears particular responsibility – especially for authors and other intellectuals. During the Nazi reign, entire branches of art were declared to be “degenerate”, artists were forced to emigrate, they were arrested or killed, and their works were destroyed. Hermann Kesten, Nuremberg’s most renowned writer of the time, had to flee abroad from National Socialist persecution. From there, he managed to help numerous persecuted intellectuals in the German-speaking countries. Providing a safe haven for persecuted writers can therefore be seen as a kind of posthumous appreciation of Hermann Kesten’s humanity by his home town, trying to continue the courageous commitment of its late honoured citizen. The generous support of the wbg gruppe Nürnberg (housing company) which provided an apartment for Mansoureh Shojaee has helped make this possible.

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