It breaks my heart that you are still in prison after seventeen years. I try to imagine how your days are like, but over and over I fear the worst. I read about journalists who have died in captivity in Eritrea and I know that you were unwell, that you have probably had to endure torture.
I know you have a family who love you, and I know that they are not allowed to visit you. But can you at least express yourself in any way? Write down words on paper? Scribble down some thoughts? As a fellow writer, I think that would comfort me a little bit.
It´s November, the darkest month. It´s raining in Stockholm, and I am finishing my novel, struggling with doubts. I live in this little bubble with my family, and my work. Every now and then I go to board meetings with Swedish PEN and try do something good. I am afraid to say that winds of suppression and an authoritarianism are sweeping over the world; over Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, China and over the Middle East. Even in the United States there is a president who calls media the enemy of the people. Over a thousand journalists have been killed around the globe in just one year.
But as always there are people fighting against it, and there are certainly people and organisations fighting for you, and we will not give up until you are free. Earlier this year, we published your book, Hope: The Tale of Moses and Manna´s love in English and French. We have had demonstrations in cities, activities in the largest daily papers. People like Madonna and Bruce Springsteen have demanded your freedom.
We have awarded you the Tucholsky prize, an honour you share with writers such as Salman Rushdie and Svetlana Alexievich. If you ever – which I am afraid you will not – come across a computer, search for the hashtag #freedawit and you will find that every day, year after year, people are protesting, hoping for your release.
So dear Dawit, what can I say? That am so dreadfully sorry? Yes of course. But also, that I – who fear nothing else than harsh critics – am proud that PEN International has asked me to write this letter to you. I am proud to have this slightest connection to you.
If the world shall become a better place – and it must – we need people like you, courageous writers who fight for the truth, and our right to express our minds.
Hoping and dreaming to see you soon.