Dmitry Bykov is one of Russia’s best-known public intellectuals. He has written novels, poetry, biographies, and literary criticism, and has served as the host of TV and radio programs. In 2019, he fell ill during an airplane flight and spent five days in a coma. An independent investigation concluded that he was poisoned by government agents. He has been banned from teaching at Russian universities or appearing on state TV. In February 2022, he became a fellow of the Open Society University Network at Cornell University’s Institute for European Studies.
Pedro X. Molina is a political cartoonist who fled his native Nicaragua during a crackdown on government critics in 2018. He is currently an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at the Cornell Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program. Among his many honors is a 2021 Gabo Award for Excellence, a 2019 Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia Journalism School, and the 2018 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International.
Television host, journalist, and policy consultant Raza Rumi has long been a leading voice for human rights and against extremism in his native Pakistan. He survived an assassination attempt in March 2014 by political Islamists in which his driver lost his life. He has continued to produce essays and editorials for the Pakistani and international press. He is currently director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. He also co-edits the online publication Ideas & Futures and serves on the ICOA board.
Sonali Samarasinghe is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist from Sri Lanka. Samarasinghe practiced law for twenty years and worked as an investigative journalist focusing on human rights, including government corruption and women’s issues. She fled the country after her husband, a newspaper editor, was assassinated. Now a U.S. citizen, she served for several years as a diplomat in Sri Lanka’s mission to the UN.
Irakli Kakabadze is a Georgian writer, performance artist, and peace and human rights activist. In January 2007 he was forced to flee with his pregnant wife after receiving anonymous death threats following the publication of a newspaper editorial calling for the government to apologize for the persecution of the people of western Georgia during the 1992-94 conflict in that region.
As a professor of linguistics and English in Swaziland, Sarah Mkhonza wrote newspaper columns for The Observer and The Swazi Sun that told of the daily struggles of Swazi women and children ejected from their land. As her popularity grew, she was told to stop writing. Her refusal resulted in threats, assaults, and hospitalization. She finally fled in 2005. Since her residency, she has taught at Cornell, Boston University, and Stanford.
Reza Daneshvar was a playwright and novelist from Iran. He taught and directed theater in Khorassan province before leaving the country in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979. He spent more than three decades as a writer and teacher in France before coming to the United States. He died in France in 2015 at age 68.
Poet, essayist, and democracy activist Yi Ping was sent from his native Beijing to the countryside, where he met his wife, translator Lin Zhou. After returning to the city, he participated in the Students’ Democracy Movement and was permanently banned from working in education and forbidden to publish his work. In 1991, he fled to Poland, and in 1997, he was granted political asylum by the U.S. government. Yi Ping remained in Ithaca after his residency and currently works as an editor at Human Rights in China.