The family of imprisoned Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak does not lose hope of recovering him, but 16 years later, he bets more on the dialogue than on the pressures on the dictator Issaias Afewerki.
Betlehem Isaak lives with her two brothers and her mother in Sweden, home of Dawit Isaak, an exile who returned to her homeland when Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia and founded an independent weekly, ”Setit”, for a few years later to be imprisoned.
Despite all the pressure on the Eritrean regime, it continues to refuse to release Isaak, who has been imprisoned since 23 September 2001 without being charged or tried without contact with his family ever since.
”I do not think any sovereign nation in the world would accept foreign demands if it felt that it was being forced,” says Betlehem Isaak in an interview with Efe via email.
”My view,” he adds, ”is that fair and honest dialogue is decisive and the right approach.” And in the end the decision (on the fate of Dawit Isaak) is a decision of Eritrea. ”
The Swedish Government ”does what it can”
Eritrea’s first and only president could not stand the criticism of independent politicians and journalists and sent a large number of them to jail in 2001.
Except for the two days he was released in 2005 to receive medical attention, Isaak has been held by the Eritrean authorities, who consider his case an internal matter related to the security of the country.
In those sixteen ”painful years,” as her daughter, who lives in Gothenburg (Sweden), has hardly heard from her, and only indirectly: the last time, a year ago, when both the Eritrean foreign minister, Osman Saleh, as a presidential adviser confirmed that he was alive.
These statements give ”hope” to Betlehem Isaak, who says he has no reason to doubt his credibility.
The daughter of the journalist and narrator highlights the importance of ”exchanging ideas and values in a respectful way” between the different countries to reach agreements.
Organizations such as the European Parliament and personalities such as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, have called for the release of the journalist in recent months, as have for years been asked by politicians, associations and media in Sweden. communication.
Betlehem Isaak thanks the support of all the people who ”honestly” fight in Sweden for the release of their father.
But he also regrets that there are those who use his figure in their own interest, something that causes him, he admits, ”sadness and disappointment.”
The Swedish government – Daw Isaak also has Swedish nationality – has tried ”silent diplomacy” with Eritrea, a tactic that has received criticism in this Scandinavian country, although Betlehem is convinced that the Executive ”does what it can”.
”His life has become my inspiration”
Isaak, who turns 53 this week, has received several awards for freedom of expression. This same year, he was awarded the UNESCO World Press Prize ”Guillermo Cano”, an award that bears the name of a murdered Colombian journalist and has been one of the three finalists to the Sakharov Prize for freedom of conscience that he grants the European Parliament.
In Guillermo Cano’s welcome address on May 3 in Jakarta, Betlehem Isaak remembered a father who taught him to read at the age of four, who was always ”traveling, away from home, dedicated to helping others” , bent on building a free Eritrea.
In the memory of his daughter, Dawit Isaak prided himself on ”Setit”: ”It is the first independent newspaper (from Eritrea), we do not want to depend on the government, other countries or organizations.
”Today, 20 years later and 15 years since I last saw him, I understand his passion and that the world is much more complex and more violent and unjust than I thought. Today his life has become my inspiration,” he says. his daughter.
Determined to dedicate her life to the defense of liberty, Betlehem added at the ceremony: ”Although my father is not here today, he would tell me not to feel anger or sadness, but hope and forgiveness, he would tell me to show understanding and concentrate on what we can do to help others. ”
That is why he encouraged the international community ”to engage in a fruitful dialogue” to guide its people ”towards an Eritrea where we can all free our minds, souls and hearts.”
”And one day, Father, I hope to see you again, to take you by the hand and just be your daughter. I hope you come home soon,” he concluded.
By Anso Lamela and Julia R. Arévalo
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