Tsegay Mehari

Four Years in an Eritrean Jail: “Poetry Gave Me Hope”

“I was the youngest of the prisoners. So they tortured me,” says the Eritrean poet and journalist, who is now 29.

“They thought: ‘He is young, he will tell us everything.’ But how could I confess? I didn’t do anything.”

“I was alone for four years,” he says. “It was like being in a grave, but I was alive. I was feeling it was the end of my life.“

Contact with other people was limited to the prison guards, who brought Mehari food through his tiny cell window three times a day. Twice a day, he was allowed to go to the toilet.

“Especially the first month was very difficult. I felt extremely lonely in that place; I was very stressed; I was thinking about my family; imagining my mother and that she died while I was in prison. I didn’t have anything to read, nothing to listen to. I was not allowed to talk to anyone.“