The City of Krakow has begun hosting Syrian poet and art critic Kholoud Charaf as a part of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).
Charaf was originally trained as a medical technician, a capacity in which she worked with female prisoners in As-Suwayda in southwestern Syria. In 2013, she witnessed abuse of prisoners and received a death threat from a police officer if she revealed it.
Since then, she has turned to poetry and art criticism, and has also worked as an English teacher, but in Syria she was still unable to express herself freely. Further endangering her is her status as a divorcee, which is seen there as bringing shame to the family and which heightens her risk of kidnapping by militant groups.
During her two years in Krakow, Charaf plans to integrate with the community as much as possible while working on her poetry as well as two additional books connected to her experiences in Syria.
Charaf will be the eighth writer hosted by Krakow, a UNESCO City of Literature, since it joined ICORN in 2011. Others include prize-winning Turkish author, human rights activist, journalist, and former CERN particle physicist Aslı Erdoğan, who was jailed and maltreated for 136 days after returning from Krakow to her home country for her contributions to a pro-Kurdish newspaper.