Best Drupal HostingBest Joomla HostingBest Wordpress Hosting

World Policy Journal is proud to share our weekly podcast, World Policy On Air, featuring former Newsweek On Air host David Alpern with timely insights from global affairs analyst Michael Moran of, risk and geostrategy consultants. Click here to subscribe on iTunes!



Relocating: Emad Tayefeh

By Sidd Joag 

It cost Emad Tayefeh $10,000 to bribe Iranian border guards for safe passage to Turkey, $2,500 of which was financed by the advocacy organization Freedom House. While living as a refugee in Istanbul he paid $4,700 for rent, $3,000 for food, and $600 for local transportation over the course of a year. After receiving humanitarian parole status from the U.S. Embassy he had to scrounge together $1,000 for a plane ticket to New York City. 

Tayefeh fled his native Iran in September 2015 following multiple occasions where he was imprisoned and severely beaten and tortured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The 31-year-old filmmaker had been working covertly on Public Enemies, a documentary covering Iranian dissidents, with interviews including veteran filmmaker Mohammed Nourizad. After his most recent arrest he was warned that the repercussions next time would be far worse. It was then that he made the decision to leave Iran for good. 

But despite the grave circumstances of Tayefeh’s relocation—the excruciating emotional, physical, and financial burden—his story is still a relatively positive one. 

Since arriving in New York City in July, he has become a finalist for a teaching fellowship at Northwestern University and a guest lecturer at Adelphi University. He is continuing to produce his documentary while auditing classes at the New York Film Academy. He has secured pro-bono legal support from Human Rights First, medical care from the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, counseling from the Crime Victims Treatment Center, work authorization, and a literary agent for his memoir. 

This level of support is in large part due to the visibility of his work. But he has benefited as well from an ad-hoc network of supporters—individuals and organizations, in New York City and elsewhere—that has formed out of a shared commitment to protecting freedom of expression and exercising it for common good. Since Tayefeh’s case was first brought to my attention I have been in contact with half a dozen prominent arts, free expression, social justice, and human rights organizations that were aware of his case. 

Add to that his work ethic, his language fluency, and his on-going commitment to supporting the community of activists in Iran taking extraordinary risks. Tayefeh is the type of artist that demands attention and support.

But despite his connectedness and consciousness, there are fears the recent U.S. election results and new, potentially draconian immigration policies will place (the likes of) Tayefeh in a situation similar to the one he fled in Iran—on a list, living in fear of attack. 

There has already been significant nativist backlash against the Obama adminstration’s commitment to accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees. This xenophobic sentiment has only been exacerbated by Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign platform. New York City has long been the cultural capital of the world in large part because of the global migration of artists and thinkers and their contributions to the city’s cultural vibrancy. Now the very essence of New York City’s identity is under threat along with the livelihood of some of its most valuable assets. 

At the end of this month, many of the individuals and organizations that were involved in troubleshooting Tayefeh’s case, including PEN’s Artist at Risk Coalition, Artistic Freedom Initiative, and the International Cities of Refuge Network will gather at the Malmö Safe Haven Meeting. Part of their agenda will be thinking about the future of “safe cities” and artist protections in light of the multiple, unfolding refugee crises, and the ripple effect of a Trump administration’s policies given the anti-immigrant sentiments already pervading the Global North. Stay tuned for a report from Malmö. 



Find additional information about the Malmö Safe Haven Meeting here.

Sidd Joag is a New York-based visual artist, journalist, and community organizer. He is a consultant for and the National Coalition Against Censorship and a recent addition to the ArtsEverywhere team. 

[Photo courtesy of Emad Tayefeh]


Post new comment
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. If you have a Gravatar account, used to display your avatar.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image. Ignore spaces and be careful about upper and lower case.


Around WPI

Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa 

This paper, “Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenging the Narratives of the War on Terror,” examines the history of Islamic movements in Africa's Sahel region to contextualize current conflicts.

World Economic Roundtable with Vicente Fox 

In this World Economic Roundtable, former Mexican President Vicente Fox discusses his current quest to make his country a hub for technology. 

Intern at World Policy

Want to join our team? Looking for an experience at one of the most highly sought-after internships for ambitious students? Application details here.


Al Gore presides over Arctic Roundtable 

As the United States prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this inaugural convening of the Arctic Deeply Roundtables launches a vital conversation for our times. 


When the Senate Worked for Us:
New book offers untold stories of how activist staffers countered corporate lobbies in the U.S.

MA in International Policy and Development
Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA): Put theory into practice through client-based coursework. Apply by Feb. 1.

Millennium Project’s State of the Future 19.0: Collective Intelligence on the Future of the World


To learn about the latest in media, programming, and fellowship, subscribe to the World Policy Weekly Newsletter and read through our archives.

World Policy on Facebook