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Shams Erfan is a writer, editor, and translator. He was a teacher in Afghanistan when he survived a direct attack by the Taliban, after which he escaped to Indonesia. There he co-founded The Archipelago, a collective of writers and artists dedicated to remapping the world. He worked with journalists and academics to report on the challenges faced by refugees in Indonesia, all while in refugee detention. Now in Canada, Erfan is a member of PEN Canada’s Writers-in-Exile program and is the PEN Canada writer-in-residence at George Brown College. Recently he co-founded Humans in Flight, a newcomer-led initiative that showcases the achievements of former refugees in Canada through storytelling and visual content. He lives in Toronto.

Program History


“Shams Erfan has lived more in his twenty-four years than most will in a hundred. His journey from cruel persecution in Afghanistan, to refugee hell in Indonesia, to sanctuary and rebirth in Canada is as gripping as it is uplifting. What shines through is this young man’s faith that he has survived for a great purpose and his passion for the loved ones he has left behind. He writes with an unflinching eye and a towering spirit. It will be my honour to help guide his vital story into the world.”