Detained Syrian journalist, lawyer and human rights activist Mazen Darwish has won the PEN Pinter Award 2014 with Salman Rushdie. To acknowledge his award, and in solidarity, here is his extract from Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline. ___ Letter for the Future Mazen Darwish From Baghdad to Budapest, from Beirut to Prague and from Vietnam to the two Koreas, I have learned that there is nothing good in war except its end. From the victims of wars, of racial discrimination in South Africa, Rwanda and Bosnia, of tyranny in our Arab world and of Franco, Pinochet and the Greek colonels, I have learned that the road to democracy is as far from the path of extremism and terrorism as it is from dictatorships and tyranny. Perhaps the situation in Syria has become worse than our most horrible nightmares – but does this mean we must relinquish the right to change our reality, to let go of our legitimate aspirations to freedom, dignity and citizenship or our duty to reduce inequality and instil more justice for our societies – simply because these slogans have been used and abused as ideologies by totalitarian authoritarian regimes and at the same time by violent takfiri movements? Must we really repeat our experiences in the Arab world every time tyranny intertwines with corruption? The combination only begets extremism, violence and terrorism. Yes, we want freedom, dignity and justice, and yes, we deserve it, but surely ‘freedom’ does not mean the freedom to die under torture or to be slaughtered, to be killed by a shell from a fighter jet or by a car bomb. It means freedom to lead a life based on sharing, on the values of universal human rights … to lead an ethical life that is not more ‘owned’ by one group while others are left out. There are too many people whom I wish I had enough time and space to address by name, and they are grander than words can describe. I especially want to mention those colleagues who worked with me every step of the way, and went with me to detention. I’d also like
to mention those who, blessedly, survived arrest. I want to tell all of you that I am honoured to have worked with you, and to have touched your dreams and sorrows. To my friends, who amazed me every time with their loyalty and their ability to hold on to what we believe in: do not lose your faith, even when those who do not have bricks to build the homeland would throw stones at you, as if they committed no sins themselves. To my wonderful family: thank you for your patience, love and support all through these hard years. Nothing has any meaning without your presence. To the security personnel who carried out the responsibility of disciplining me for ten months, and especially to those who disciplined me in the first days of Eid al-Adha: I feel sorry for all of us. I wish happy lives for your children, with no fear and no torture, with festivals full of joy and love to be shared with my own two children, Inana and Adad. In the swirl of crazy violence, I lost so many beloved ones. They were killed, detained, wounded, kidnapped or made homeless. Among them are my colleague Dr Ayham Ghazoul, my friend Hassan Ahmad Azhary, my cousin First Lieutenant Ali Darwish, my brother Sami Akel and my friend Khalil Matouek. To them, and to their families, I bow. I strangle my tears because they are less than your sorrows. I lift up my voice, however, so we can all go out into the sun, hand in hand, and chant again: One, one, one! The Syrian nation is one. Syrian blood is one. The Syrian future is one. After his arrest on 16 February 2012 by officers believed to be from the intelligence branch of the Syrian Air Force, Mazen Darwish disappeared with no news or official statements as to his status. Darwish’s acceptance letter was read aloud by Prof. Dr Manfred Nowak of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute on the occasion of the awards ceremony for the fifteenth Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services to Human Rights on 10 June 2013 in Vienna, Austria.