Free Dawit Isaak


a mock prison cell installed in the Brussels Fine Art Centre (BOZAR) for supporters to share their solidarity with the Dawit isaak and campaign for his freedom

Imagine you are being locked away in a prison for 14 years without trial for crimes you have not committed? On Sunday 15 November, you can experience the injustice facing the Swedish-Eritrean journalist, Dawit Isaak, who has been detailed Eritrea for 14 years now. To share the solidarity with Dawit, you will be put in a  four square metres of pitch dark and stifled surroundings symbolize Dawit Isaak’s prison cell for 15 minutes.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) will join a campaign launched by the Belgian branch of the world association of writers, PEN, to highlight the struggle of Dawit for freedom and gather international support to free Dawit. The event will be held in Bozer (Centre for Fine Art) in Brussels starting from 15 November to 22 November (see details below).

On 15 November, the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Belgian P.E.N. representative will organise a sit-in around Isaak’s prison cell. Between 2pm and 5pm their members will read aloud. A number of writers in exile residing in Belgium will also be taking part in this event.With: Sulaiman Addonia (ER), Adnan Adil (IQ), Alhadi Agabeldour (SD), Nisma Alaklouk (PS), Ubah Cristina Ali Farah (IT-SO), Zuher Aljobory (IQ), Huguette de Broqueville (BE), Saskia De Coster (BE), Fikry El Azzouzi (BE), Rose-Marie François (BE), Kenan Görgün (BE), Maarten Inghels (BE), Betlehem Isaak (SE), Hazim Kamaledin (IQ), Boris Korkmazov (RU), Caroline Lamarche (BE), Abdullah Maksour (SY), Majid Matrood (IQ), MohaNad Jacob (IQ), Hoshang Ossi, Mariane Sluszny (BE), Jeroen Theunissen (BE), Annelies Verbeke (BE).

Dawit Isaak fled to Sweden in the late 1980s, to escape the aggression in his native country. He was granted Swedish citizenship. After the Eritrean War of Independence he returned to his fatherland and supported its reconstruction, amongst others through the weekly called Setit. It was a plea for journalistic independence and freedom of speech, an internationally recognised human right and precondition for a democratic society. While Eritrea began to show more dictatorial characteristics, Isaak kept fighting for democracy and freedom of press. In 2001 he was imprisoned without any form of indictment, charge or trial.

On 2 June, the EFJ at its Annual Meeting in Montenegro declared its support for Dawit. Bethlehem Isaak, daughter of Isaak, sent a message via the Swedish delegate, Jonas Nordling, to the delegates and thanked for their support for Dawit.

The message reads:

“Thank you for continuing to give Dawit Isaak a voice. You have the world’s most important job by giving people a voice. Thank you for your support. It keeps my Dad alive.”

On this occassion, the EFJ has also written to the Head of the Delegation of European Union to the State of Eritrea, Ambassador Christian R. Manahl and members of the European Parliament at the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, asking their assistance to help free Dawit.




Sunday 15 November 2015, 13:00 (→ 18:00)
Tuesday 17 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00) 
Wednesday 18 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00) 
Thursday 19 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00) 
Friday 20 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00)
Saturday 21 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00) 
Sunday 22 November 2015, 10:00 (→ 18:00) 


BOZAR/Centre for Fine Arts


You can also join various online campaigns to suppport Dawit:

FreeDawit on Facebook
FreeDawit | BOZAR Brussels



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    11/11/2016 at 10:01 pm Reply

    Writers in Prison Committee of PEN Suisse Romand Centre


    On the occasion of the PEN International Imprisoned Writer Day, 15 November 2016, the Writers in Prison Committee expresses concern over repression with impunity against freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of artistic creativity. Hundreds of writers, journalists, bloggers and artists were attacked during the last 12 months. Some were killed or missing. The murder of Anna Politkoskaya remains unpunished 10 years later.
    At the PEN International Congress held in September in Ourense, Galicia, Spain, a dozen of adopted resolutions presented a grim picture of the situation, still insufficient and partial. In truth, the list of high-risk countries for literature and freedom of expression and opinion is not exhaustive.
    With 10 killed and many injured, Afghanistan lived, in 2016, the deadliest year for media professionals, writers and intellectuals. In Bangladesh, a flagrant impunity for murders of editors, bloggers, academics, activists of civil society and religious minorities. Cuba continues to harass and arrest journalists, writers and bloggers for crime of beliefs or convictions. In Egypt, a disturbing number of writers and journalists persecuted or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression, of the press, or of artistic creativity. In Eritrea, absence of independent media for 15 years. Systematic arbitrary arrests, violent disappearances and extrajudicial executions. 17 journalists victims of enforced disappearances, including Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, playwright and poet, held in September 2001. China mercilessly punishes writers and human rights defenders of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Some prisoners have been tortured. The Tibetan language is severely threatened because Mandarin is the main language taught in schools. Brutal crackdown hit the autonomous regions of Uygur Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and the special region of Hong Kong. Everywhere in China, freedom of expression is muzzled. At least 40 writers remain in prison, including the Nobel Peace Prize Liu Xiaobo. In Vietnam, dissident writers, journalists and bloggers are subject to arbitrary arrest, sentenced to particularly long prison terms in unfair trials. Some have been forced into exile in exchange for their release of the forced labour camp, as the woman poet Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and woman journalist Ta Phong Tan. In their place in prison, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, founder of the Vietnamese Bloggers Network and mother of two small children, has been imprisoned for ‘’propaganda against the socialist State’’. She risks 20 years in prison. India has experienced a disturbing deterioration of freedom of expression. Writers, artists and journalists are harassed and silenced for expressing the concerns of religious, social and linguistic minorities. In Honduras, freedom of expression remains a major concern. Since 2003, 57 journalists have been killed while in the majority of cases, the perpetrators have not yet been identified. Self-censorship in the media is motivated by the threat of criminal defamation and slanders lawsuits. Moreover, students are not guaranteed the right to peaceful protest as an essential element of freedom of expression. Cesario Padilla, journalist and co-founder of Honduras PEN Centre, was being followed by armed men. Mexico continues to be one of the deadliest country for media professionals: from 2005 to June 2016, more than 100 murdered journalists and 25 disappeared journalists. Nine communicators were murdered in the first half of 2016. Authors of crimes remain unpunished in 9 cases out of 10. In Iran, of the 61 persecuted writers, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and composers identified, 16 were in prison and 8 detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression and artistic creativity. Among these victims were two sentenced to death, the writer and poet Arzhang Davoodi and the author Hesameddin Farzizadeh. In Israel, Dareen Tatour was arrested on 11 October 2015 after posting one of her poems on social networks. Israeli citizen, the Palestinian woman poet faces up to 8 years in prison for ‘’incitement to violence’’. On 14 January 2016, she was released and placed under house arrest until her trial scheduled towards the end of the year.
    In Turkey, following the state of emergency, as of 28 July 2016, the authority ordered the closure of 131 media, including 3 news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses, including the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem. 97 writers and journalists are known actually under arrest or in custody. Novelist Asli Erdogan, one of the major voices in contemporary Turkish literature, was arrested on 17 August 2016 for making ‘’propaganda for a terrorist organization’’. The Great Repression continues on 31 October 2016, with the arrest of the editor Murat Sabuncu and several journalists of Cumhuriyet, the main opposition daily. As a reminder, Turkey is a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Nguyên Hoàng Bao Viêt,
    Vice president of PEN Suisse Romand
    for the Writers in Prison Committee.

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