Ithaca City of Asylum

Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) is dedicated to providing sanctuary to writers whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, or whose languages are endangered. Formed as part of an international network of cities of refuge, ICOA welcomed its first resident writer, poet and essayist Yi Ping (China), in 2001; its second resident writer, playwright and novelist Reza Daneshvar (Iran), in 2004; its third resident writer, poet and memoirist Sarah Mkhonza (Swaziland), in 2006; and its fourth resident writer, poet and playwright Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), in 2008.

ICOAs current writer-in-residence is Sonali Samarasinghe, an award-winning investigative journalist, editor and lawyer from Sri Lanka. She worked for more than twenty years fighting for justice, freedom and accountability in her country. Shortly after government-sponsored assassins murdered her husband and well-known editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge, on January 8, 2009, Samarasinghe was driven from her country by threats to her own life, as well as her family.

Samarasinghe was the editor-in-chief of the Morning Leader, a mid week national newspaper, and the consultant editor of The Sunday Leader. She has been nationally and internationally recognized for her work and given several awards, including being honored as one of ten international human rights defenders by Amnesty International and numerous journalism awards, including the Award for Print and Digital Journalism by the organization Images of Voice and Hope, after the launch of her website She created the website in May 2011, and it quickly gained credibility as a reliable and balanced news source, even as it continues to fight for justice and accountability in her country. Samarasinghe also continues to fight for an independent investigation into her husband’s murder and into the murders of several other journalists and activists. She is settling into Ithaca and is a Visiting Scholar in Residence within the Honors Program in the School of Humanities and Sciences at IC. During her stay in Ithaca, she will teach at the college and continue work on a book that details the recent history of media and the government in Sri Lanka.

ICOA serves as a bridge into the community, assisting visiting writers and their families in meeting the challenges of a new environment. ICOA works in partnership with Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Wells College. ICOA’s resident writers are assisted in meeting their daily expenses while in Ithaca, including housing, furnishings, transportation, translators’ fees, and performance and publication of new work, through contributions to ICOA from individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Two Ithaca College students, Shaun Poust and Thad Komorowski, produced a short documentary in 2011 that examines the mission of ICOA and conveys the spirit of the writers the group brings to Ithaca. To get an excellent overview of ICOA please view the video online here

Your tax deductible contribution to ICOA helps support all these efforts and more!