After more than four years in immigration detention in the middle of the South Pacific, the Iranian cartoonist known as "Eaten Fish" has a new view: the fjords of Norway.

Eaten Fish — the pen name of cartoonist Ali Dorani — arrived in Stavanger, Norway, on Dec. 17 after the city agreed to host him for at least the next two years through the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). ICORN partners with cities around the globe to provide shelter to writers and artists at risk, giving them a safe place for them to continue their craft without harassment or persecution.

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway



His long ordeal began on Aug. 6, 2013, when he was intercepted at sea while trying to reach Australia from Indonesia in a smuggler's boat. It was that act of being plucked from the sea, just as he arrived in Australian waters, that inspired his pen name and logo.

"I'm like a fish bone...Gotten from the sea. Eaten and thrown away for so long."

During his more than four years in detention, cartoonist Eaten Fish often felt depressed and sometimes suicidal. 

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

Ever since, Australia has been widely criticized for the conditions at the Manus Island camp and the United Nations has declared the country's policy of indefinite detention at the offshore camp  "cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

Eaten Fish does his own take on Edvard Munch's The Scream, setting it in his home for the last four years, the Manus Island detention camp in Papua New Guinea.

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

"I don't eat food because I don't need food. I need safety.. I need protection and right.." 19th day of #hungerstrike, 46.7kg #SaveEatenFish pic.twitter.com/g7Dagh7aK2

— DanielleA12 (@dani_a12) February 18, 2017

In August 2017, he was moved to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea — for medical treatment and housed in a hotel with other refugees — where he remained until ICORN's sponsorship finally freed him.

In the end, it was arguably social media that saved him. Detainees at Manus Island had some access to the Internet and many eventually acquired smartphones. In 2014, while online, Eaten Fish learned about an art exhibition being planned in Australia to protest the country's policy toward asylum-seekers. It would feature art and poetry by people in the country's offshore immigration detention system. The exhibit was called "Our Beautiful Names" because detainees are called by their number, not their name. 

Eaten Fish sent in some cartoons via Facebook and it reached the organizer, Australian activist and poet Janet Galbraith.   

RUF115 was the number Eaten Fish was given when he arrived at Australia's Manus Island immigration detention camp in Papua New Guinea in 2014. 

Eaten Fish, Iran/Norway


Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

Eaten Fish says he was beaten and sexually harassed during his detention at the Manus Island detention camp. Eventually, he was placed in isolation at the camp and in August 2017 was  moved to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea for medical treatment.  

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

https://t.co/WpDssNEFlK #saveeatenfish pic.twitter.com/LdtVvBZt1s

— Jade Barker (@barker_jade) July 21, 2016

Marlton used his position as a cartoonist for the Guardian's Australia edition to draw attention to the case of Eaten Fish and the offshore detention camps. In July 2016, he drew a multi-panel cartoon about what daily life at the camp was like for Eaten Fish.

The terrible true story of Mr Eaten Fish, Manus Island cartoonist | First Dog on the Moon https://t.co/7V8VN2cc1G

— Joseph Pugliese (@joseph_pugliese) July 20, 2016

After I heard about Eaten Fish, I started my own WhatsApp correspondence with him. 

In 2016 the human rights group Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) got involved after learning about Eaten Fish through one of its board members. Cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar, a CRNI member who had fled Iran 2003 with the help of CRNI and the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists (since renamed the Association of Canadian Cartoonists) started messaging Eaten Fish in Farsi. They used Telegram, a messaging app popular among Iraniansbecause of its strong emphasis on privacy protection for its users.  Sometimes the two would message back and forth for hours at a stretch. Other times they wouldn't talk for weeks.  

Eaten Fish, who is Iranian, celebrates Nowruz, the Persian New Year, against the backdrop of detention on a remote Pacific island. 

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

Later that year, CRNI chose Eaten Fish for its annual Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award. Eaten Fish received the award via Telegram message app from Kowsar during the annual convention of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). Kowsar encouraged the roomful of satirists to draw cartoons in support of Eaten Fish and post them online.

Eaten Fish (Ali Dorani), Iran/Norway

Eaten Fish Thanks to all those who contributed to the digital shoal #AddAFish campaign. https://t.co/Wi2kbmZT2A@procartoonists @ICORN_ORG @CRNetInt @HBCartoonFest @ShrewsToonFest @CartoonistsGB #EatenFish @AAEC_Cartoonist @FranceCartoons pic.twitter.com/ZfrVXpHv23

— MarshallCartoons (@marshallcartoon) December 22, 2017

Eventually the human rights group CRNI connected Galbraith to ICORN which over the years has helped provide refuge to several persecuted cartoonists around the globe. CRNI helped the case along by pursuing diplomatic connections in Washington which got them a meeting with the Australian embassy. Finally, on December 16th,  Galbraith got the chance to meet Eaten Fish in person when she showed up in Port Morsbey to accompany him on his flight to Norway.

In an email, Galbraith said she was "very very pleased that Eaten Fish has been freed after all these years. "t was wonderful to finally be able to hug each other and it was a privilege to be able to do this knowing that he was now moving toward freedom." But Galbraith said the moment is also bittersweet. "Sweet because Eaten Fish is now free and safe, and bitter because so many other people remain hostage to the state of Australia and its policies in off-shore prison camps."

When Andrew Marlton learned that Eaten Fish had arrived in Norway, he celebrated by drawing another multi-panel cartoon. 

the final cartoon for 2017 is sort of a happy ending and isn’t that nice for a change https://t.co/ST1rJTAn5G

— First Dog on the Moon (@firstdogonmoon) December 21, 2017

Kowsar says is hopeful. One of the first messages he received from Eaten Fish after he arrived in Norway was encouraging. "He said he was able to buy a Doogh, " a carbonated yogurt drink popular in Iran. "That showed me he was very happy."

Good news today! #eatenfish has been relocated to Europe! Here’s one more for the #AddAFish shoal and I wish Ali much happiness in his new home!!! #manus pic.twitter.com/6d3rOQg00u

— Kate Parkinson (@K8Parkinson) December 19, 2017

From PRI's The World ©2017 PRI