The Uncaged Voice
Stories by Writers in Exile
Freedom, truth, and justice are taken for granted in some countries. In others, they are aspirational. And yet in others, they are deemed justification for persecution, punishment, and silence. Through first-person essays and short stories, the contributors to The Uncaged Voice share their brutal yet heart-rending tales of fleeing the oppressive regimes of their homelands, where freedom of expression and the press is an ideal, not a reality, and where totalitarian forces attempt to subjugate, if not annihilate, all forms of dissention. From war correspondents reporting across dangerous "no-go zones," to female journalists escaping conservative and patriarchal tyranny, to independent newspaper editors risking imprisonment or worse to criticize authoritarian states -- these fifteen writers-in-exile continue to write, sharing both the suppressed truths of their past and the hopes they have for the future in Canada, their chosen place of asylum. With introductions by editor Keith Ross Leckie and Mary Jo Leddy, The Uncaged Voice tells often-silenced stories, not only of censorship and persecution, but also of the strength and resilience of those unwavering in their fight for the freedom of expression. Contributors include: Aaron Berhane, Gezahegn Mekonnen Demissie, Alexander Duarte, Ava Homa, Abdulrahman Matar, Ilamaran Nagarasa, Luis Horacio Nájera, Kiran Nazish, Pedro A. Restrepo, Maria Saba, Kaziwa Salih, Mahdi Saremifar, Bilal Sarwary, Savithri, and Arzu Yildiz.
About this Author
Aaron Berhane was a founder and editor-in-chief of the largest independent newspaper in Eritrea when the government ordered a crackdown on journalists and was forced to escape under a hail of bullets. He passed away in 2021.
Gezahegn M. Demissie is an award-winning journalist, writer, and filmmaker. When the increasingly oppressive Ethiopian government suspended PEN Ethiopia's licence, he and three other harassed journalists fled into exile in Canada. Demissie is leader of the Writers in Exile Committee of PEN Canada and currently edits the community journal New Perspectives.
Alexander Duarte is a journalist. He worked for El Nacional, one of the most read newspapers in Venezuela, and as director of media and public relations with the Attorney General of Venezuela until the new regime came into power at which time he and his journalist wife received death threats and fled to Canada.
Ava Homa is a Kurdish writer, journalist, and activist who was born in Iran, where she was a university teacher before leaving to find freedom in Canada.
Abdulrahman Matar is a Syrian Canadian journalist, novelist, and poet as well as a board member of the Syrian Writers Association and managing editor of Awraq magazine who spent eight years in a Syrian prison for his writing.
Ilamaran Nagarasa, known as Maran, is a freelance journalist, human rights activist, and refugee advocate originally from Sri Lanka who was imprisoned as a Tamil terrorist for more than a year after arriving in Vancouver.
Luis Horacio Nájera is an award-winning journalist born in Mexico who has been a refugee in Canada since 2008 after receiving death threats because he reported on drug cartels and corruption along the US-Mexico border.
Kiran Nazish is a Pakistani journalist covering conflict and human rights. After suffering many years of threats and intimidation in Pakistan she fled to Canada. She is the founder and director of the Coalition for Women in Journalism.
Pedro A. Restrepo is a writer, journalist, interpreter, and human rights activist who is the author of books of poetry, a novel, and works on pedagogy. He left his beloved Columbia when his father was murdered for his political beliefs.
Maria Saba is a writer, storyteller, and arts educator originally from Iran. She has published three books and over a hundred articles, interviews, and stories.
Kaziwa Salih, PhD, an expelled Kurd, is the award-winning author of several fiction and non-fiction books, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of two journals, Nivar and Newkar.
Mahdi Saremifar is an Iranian journalist. He was a science correspondent for Hamshahri, one of the most read newspapers in Iran, and editor-in-chief of an Iranian popular science magazine. He was forced to leave Iran when the science he was reporting conflicted with the doctrines of the Supreme Leader.
Bilal Sarwary is an Afghan journalist who has worked extensively with western media outlets over the last twenty years in Afghanistan including the BBC for fourteen years. His name was on the Taliban execution list. He escaped the country in August 2021 as the Taliban closed in.
Savithri is a freelance journalist and author with a passion for writing stories about politics and human rights who works as a translator, columnist, and novelist. She grew up in Kerala, India, was forced into an abusive marriage by her family, and left the country in 2010, unable to adapt to the patriarchal tendencies and conservatism of Indian society.
Arzu Yildiz is a Turkish-born award-winning investigative journalist, senior reporter, editor, public speaker, and the author of four books. Yildiz was the recipient of the 2021 PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship and is currently on a Turkish government terrorist list. She wrote articles on government corruption and had to escape an arrest warrant, leaving her children behind.
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