ICOA’s Fifth Writer-in-residence: Sonali Samarasinghe

Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) is proud to announce that its writer-in-residence for 2012–14 is the human rights activist and award-winning journalist Sonali Samarasinghe.

Sonali Samarasinghe
(© Barbara Adams 2012)

While practicing law in Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe worked as an editor and journalist focusing on government corruption and human rights. She left Sri Lanka with other members of her family in 2009 when her husband, Lasantha Wickrematunge, a high-profile attorney, publisher, and activist for freedom of the press, was assassinated and her household was threatened. Since coming to the United States, she has established The Lanka Standard (http://www.lankastandard.com), a website devoted to truthful coverage of events in Sri Lanka and to freedom of the media in that country.

ICOA is a community organization that works closely with Ithaca College, Wells College, and Cornell University to provide sanctuary to writers whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, or whose languages are endangered. Ithaca College is providing primary support for Samarasinghe’s residency and has appointed her Visiting Scholar in Residence within the Honors Program in the School of Humanities and Sciences. During her stay in Ithaca, she will teach at the college and continue work on a book that details the recent history of the media and the government in Sri Lanka. To learn more about Samarasinghe, a film about her work is available for viewing on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival website.

Sonali Samarasinghe is the fifth writer to be supported by Ithaca City of Asylum. Formed as part of an international network of cities of refuge, ICOA includes in its membership individuals from Ithaca and the surrounding communities and area colleges. The group welcomed its first resident writer, poet and essayist Yi Ping (China) in 2001; its second, playwright and novelist Reza Daneshvar (Iran) in 2004; its third, poet and memoirist Sarah Mkhonza (Swaziland) in 2006; and its fourth, poet and playwright Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia) in 2008.

Samarasinghe will meet members of the Ithaca community in September when she will be the featured speaker at Voices of Freedom, an annual event sponsored by ICOA and the Tompkins County Public Library to celebrate Freedom to Read Week. Voices of Freedom will take place at the library in Ithaca, September 30, 2:00 p.m., in the Borg Warner Community Room.

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