An open letter to the great people of Denmark


“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. 

The inalienable human right

   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 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. 

The fight for freedom

   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.  

Author and Messenger

   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 being vanished. 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 is resurrecting 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.

Depending on the written word 

   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 do, 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.

Freedom flowers

   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 force world’s 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.

No tyranny persists

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



The article has been published in Danish in Jyllandsposten 11.april 2014


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