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Habtom Yohannes

Amanuel Asrat & Habtom Yohannes
Amanuel Asrat & Habtom Yohannes

shall be accepting the Oxfam Novib/PEN Award on behalf of the Eritrean poet and songwriter Amanuel Asrat. Habton Yohannes is a Dutch journalist, writer and lecturer of Eritrean origin. In addition to working in radio and television, he writes for Dutch and foreign newspapers. He is also an activist for peace and human rights. He keeps on putting the violation of human rights in Eritrea on the agenda of the Dutch parliament, the European parliament, the African Union and the United Nations. He frequently gives lectures about the situation. During the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea (1998 – 2000) he called, via the IKON radio, for Eritreans and Ethiopians to join in protest against the war. He interrupted his work to write a 'letter of piece' addressed to the late prime minister of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi and the president of Eritrea, Mr. Isaias Afwerki. The letter was signed by archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nigerian president Olesegun Obsanjo, former minister of defense of the United States, Robert MacNamara and more than 30 other international personalities and laureates.


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  • Winternachten 2016

    Opening Night: Free the Word!

    With: Alaa al Aswani, Dick van der Harst, Dilek Dundar, Farah Karimi, Guy Danel, Habtom Yohannes, Jennifer Clement, Jung Chang, Lex Bohlmeijer, Manon Uphoff, Reinier Voet, Renate Dorrestein, Toine Heijmans, Ton van de Langkruis

    On opening night, the spotlight is on freedom of speech.The Sino-British writer Jung Chang knows what it means to be unable to speak freely in one's country. Years after she left Communist China, her world-famous book Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China was banned there. Tonight she delivers the Free the Word! keynote speech. With the following presentation of the prestigious Oxfam Novib PEN Awards, the festival honours contemporary authors who seek and propagate truth at the risk of their freedom and lives. The award-winners are the Turkish writer and journalist Can Dundar (who is now in prison in Turkey and will be represented by his wife Dilek Dundar), the Eritrean poet and songwriter Amanuel Asrat, who will be represented by Habtom Yohannes, and the Egyptian poet Omar Hazek. He would have been present in The Hague to receive the award, but was stopped on his way to The Netherlands at Cairo airport by the authorities. His fellow-countryman writer Alaa Al Aswany will represent him. After the ceremony, Lex Bohlmeijer will lead a discussion on how good intentions can founder when we raise issues of injustice, such as censorship. How can we really help threatened writers? And what is the point of good intentions when they have the opposite effect? Musical interventions by musician-in-residence Dick van der Harst switch up this English-language event.