Exiled writers, artists from across the world find refuge in Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum

Osama Alomar knew from a young age he wanted to be a writer. But Syrian writers, like him, have been arrested and eventually disappeared in his country, he said. 

That almost became Alomar's fate when a friend told him Syrian intelligence was looking for him because of one of his stories.

"I was scared,” he said. "I was so scared.”

He ended up finding refuge in Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, a place where writers and artists from countries across the world have settled, hoping for a chance to express themselves freely.

A non-profit called City of Asylum helps the artists settle there.

“They’ve been imprisoned, tortured, censored, put under house arrest, beaten up, you name the endangerment,” Henry Reese, the president of City of Asylum, told Fox News of what the artists have endured. Reese said they’ve had writers come from Iran, Syria, China, Venezuela and Bangladesh, among others.

“City of Asylum provides sanctuary to writers exiled during their fear of persecution,” Reese told Fox News.

Alomar, now one of the writers living at City of Asylum, told Fox News he remembers hearing about writers disappearing when he lived in Syria, but that didn’t stop him from writing.

“Books were everywhere,” he said of his childhood. "When I turned 15 or 16 I felt I have to be writer in my future."

Alomar was able to move to the United States before the Syrian revolution found him and has since had his work translated into English.

“They come here because they want to be able to speak freely and write freely,” Reese told Fox News of the residents. “Their literary writing was the cause of their persecution.”

Reese says having writers from so many countries has been beneficial to the community.

Michelle Chavez is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Pittsburgh.