They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Take action for prisoners of conscience in Eritrea

Guest blogger Alex Jackson is our country expert on Eritrea and Somalia. 

The late nineties and early noughties were momentous years.  

I was living in Eritrea, and war with Ethiopia had consumed the country. Our passion for peace and progress was unlimited, and there were two young men that stood out as among the most passionate. 

The two Dawits

Dawit Issaak had worked for the first non-government newspaper -Setit, named after the only river in Eritrea that has flowing water for the whole year. Dawit Habtemichael was a dynamic young physics teacher who established a newspaper called  Meqaleh – meaning Echo – in 1998.

I found Eritreans to be the warmest, gentlest and most hospitable of people and the Dawits were among the best. But on 18 September  2001, while the rest of the world had eyes and ears only for 9/11, all private media in Eritrea were closed down. The Dawits and another eight journalists were arrested.  

Prisoners of Conscience

Apart from two painfully short days of hope when Dawit Isaak was released before disappearing once again into the gulag, neither Dawit has been seen since by friends, family or lawyers. 

Neither has been charged with any offence.

In my memory, I see two young, vital creative men who have not grown old. But, in 2012, Reporters Without Borders announced that they believed that Dawit Habtemichael had died. 

Eleven years of solitary confinement with no written or spoken communication – even with his guards – meant that age did weary him and the years did condemn. Only imagination can advise us of Dawit Isaak's condition.  

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, I remember them.  

Please join me. Demand that the Eritrean Government releases Dawit Isaak and all other prisoners of conscience.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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