An open letter to the great people of Denmark, Et åbent brev til det danske folk

The Danish translation of this letter is published in Jyllands-Posten ,

It is also republished in Godsbanen Website, and Aarhus Main Library Website.


“O’ freedom!

We inscribed your name on our bodies

So many times

That even death cannot catch us alive”


Dear people of Denmark,

I have frequently had it in my mind to write this letter since my departure from Iran, but circumstances beyond my control, specifically troubles attendant upon a change of domicile, have prevented me from doing so. Moreover, writing addressed to such a great nation is not so easy. As I am writing this letter, I live safely in the wonderful city of Aarhus and among its gracious people. It became possible for me only because of your exemplary and laudable regard for the freedom of speech.

You proved not only that the freedom of speech is a basic value for the Danish society, but also that you are determined to assist other nations with their struggle for this inalienable human right. Despite all of those pompous, pretentious and, mostly, empty words about freedom of speech that these days we hear everywhere and every time, you are the people who step forward and take action. You are the people who truly care for what may change the world. And the world needs people like you more than ever as it is getting darker and darker to the extent that even in a so-called democratic country such as United States, in cases such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, we are witnessing systematic attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of information, which is more than disappointing.

Being a part of refuge network is not merely about giving a persecuted writer an opportunity to live and work freely. It is also a strong message of solidarity from Danish people to the people around the world implying that they are not alone with their struggle for freedom. Believe me, there is nothing more frightening than feeling lonely in an unequal fight against an enormous enemy. What you are offering to the world is a priceless gift of hope from people who fought for their freedom, and gained it, to the people who are still fighting.

I am here as a writer and also as a messenger. Writing is always about freedom as well as it is about remembrance. Writing, by nature, resists against forgetting and by doing so it protects hopes, wishes, visions and dreams from vanishing. Therefore, writing resists against those who attempt to banish the people’s hopes of victory and dreams of better future to the realm of forgetfulness. Writing resurrects what power had murdered. However, what is written, whether it is good or bad, important or frivolous, memorable or forgettable; “it is a perfect act through which what was nothing, when it was inside, emerges into the monumental reality of the outside as a necessarily true translation. Since the person it translates exists only thought it and in it”. That is why writing itself is vital for all the suppressed and marginalized people. Their very existence depends on it. Writing gives them the opportunity to exist, to be visible by way of telling their own stories.

Therefore, I’ve brought the stories of my own people with me. The stories of people who can dance like nobody can, but dancing is forbidden for them. The stories women who sing like Sirens, but singing is forbidden for them. The stories of “the best minds of my generation” that can shake the world with their creativity but they are “destroyed by madness” doping themselves to death or rotting in the coffins of ancient bigotries and half dead stinking traditions. However, despite all those prohibitions, my people still dance and sing and create. The tyrants want these stories to be buried along with the hopes hidden inside them. But with the help of great people like you, those stories turn into plants and split the soil, pierce the stone and rise up to the ground and one day the flowers of freedom flourish everywhere.

In my life, I have seen dark days, darker than an imaginative mind can imagine. I saw people got beaten up just because of their hairstyle or the shirt they wore. I saw boys and girls being questioned, humiliated and arrested just because of holding their hands or walking side by side or sitting next to each other. During the uprising after the election in 2009, I saw my brothers and sisters were arrested, tortured, raped and murdered. I saw a woman, a mother, got intentionally run over by a police truck. I saw dozen of my friends, brilliant artists and writers, who killed themselves because they could no longer breathe in the air polluted by suppression, violence, hypocrisy, dogmatism and stupidity. During those dark days the only light of hope was messages of solidarity that we received from the people around the world. We suddenly found ourselves as part of an immensely powerful and undefeatable force: the global force of people who stand for the free world.  A few of those dark memories now belong to the past. Things have changed. We fought back and we changed them. But there is still a long way to go.

I saw the dark side of human life in this new brave world. Now I am seeing the bright side of it. When I talked to Alderman Rabih Azad Ahamad, I saw a great man who understands how it feels to be suppressed, silenced and censored. When I see adorable Aarhusians in the streets welcoming me, I believe that humanity, despite all the deadly wounds over its body, is still alive, and as long as it is so, no tyrant is immortal no tyranny is eternal and we shall overcome.

I take advantage of the opportunity offered by this letter to assure you how grateful I am to be able to live among you and also to assure you of the deep respect your determination in protecting the freedom of speech has inspired in me.


Yours most sincerely,

Omid Shams



3 thoughts on “An open letter to the great people of Denmark, Et åbent brev til det danske folk

  1. Amazing , wonderful clarity and committment. A passsion with unmistakable truth that traches and integrartes into the soul,s mind and heart the reality of the need for honouring human right s to freedom of speech and expression.
    Womderfuyl artisit , amazing integrity that writes unforgettable messages received.
    With thanks for your gift and presence
    Jane Myra Turner Tasmania Australia

  2. Oh Omid, you wrote it so beautiful, full of truths and memories that I also still carry with myself, even if I am living in exile for over 20 years…

    Those years who I started my life in Europe as a single mother with my infant, in a very painful situation, drowning in poverty and suffering day and night.

    This was after the loss of over 12 members of my family and relatives, by the brutality of islamic regime. And my mother was one of them!!

    Imagine, I am just a drop of the ocean of 80 millions Iranian…

    I was crying while reading your wonderful letter and I could understand every single word you have written with all my feelings.

    Yes, it has taken me years and years to get used to the new situation, to start to build my life, finishing uni, bringing my son to a happy life, when I could fulfill his wishes…

    But all of that,has cost me the best period of my life, when I should have enjoyed my youth, my teenager time…. Something that you never can bring it back…

    Yes, dear Omid it has cost 3 generations of pain and suffering living in exile or inside Iran, as a result of those brutal rulers there.

    I thank you so so much for your letter and letting us know how do you feel!!!

    Sorry for any mistake in English, it is my 4th language.

    Love and Solidarity

    ps; if you think is better not to bring my reply to public, is fine. Please feel free for any decision!

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