Photo credit: Maria KarlbergThe Syrian writer Housam Al-Mosilli recently spoke at Linköping University’s Valla Library about life in Syria, the escape that brought him to Linköping and freedom of expression.
Housam Al-Mosilli began by reading from his essay on his first encounter with Sweden. He likens the Swedes to sunflowers, drawn to the light and the warmth. He read in Arabic, and Senior Librarian Anneli Friberg translated.
“It’s lucky I can speak English, and know enough about football. This means I can speak to most Swedes without difficulty, and make contact right away.”
The audience, consisting mainly of university staff members, chuckled when he described his difficulties with Swedish recycling.
The humour later gave way to a serious, attentive silence when he started to tell about his life. In Syria he worked as a poet and journalist, however this became increasingly dangerous, and he fled in 2012. By then he had repeatedly been imprisoned and tortured, because he had reported on the abuses of the Assad regime.
He took “the regular route” via Lebanon and Egypt to Turkey. In Istanbul he lived and worked for two and a half years, but it was dangerous there too. His friend, the journalist Naji al-Jarf, was murdered just before he was to flee from Turkey to France.
Housam Al-Mosilli was told about the opportunity to apply for a writer’s residency through an organisation called ICORN (International Cities Of Refuge Network). ICORN and Linköping Municipality selected Housam as the town’s first ICORN writer in residence. Since 25 February he has lived and worked in Linköping.
“My first impression was very welcoming. I had only been here a week when a man stopped me in the street and said welcome, I read your text in a national newspaper and really liked it.”
Photo credit: Maria KarlbergHe is grateful that he was able to come to Sweden and Linköping. But he adds that freedom of expression must be defended here as well:
“I have read that every third writer and artist in Sweden has been threatened at some point.”
When asked what ordinary people can do to promote freedom of expression, he responded:
“The simplest way is to keep on expressing yourselves. Don’t censure yourselves.”