In our second in-depth look into The Voice Project, we examine the ambassadorship of Peter Gabriel and Tom Morello as they lend their voices to those who no longer are able to speak.
"If you have the opportunity to write, do it." - Dawit Issak
"When I first started travelling around the world [for the Human Rights Now tour in 1988], I was shocked to discover in how many countries there were artists who were in jail, who had been tortured or killed for doing the same thing that I do; writing and singing songs," Peter Gabriel explained.
That initial shock moved Gabriel to start his own foundation and also become involved with The Voice Project, where Gabriel is raising awareness for Dawit Issak, a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer imprisoned in Eritrea who has been held without trial for 15 years.
Dawit Issak is a well-known, award-winning author and was one of seven journalists that founded the country's first and only independent newspaper - Setit . In 2001 a group of politicians published a letter urging President Isaias Afwerki, who has remained in power since Eritrea's independence in 1993, for free and fair elections. Setit reported on the story and not long after Dawit Issak found himself arrested, thrown in prison without trial, with no court date or release date expected.
There are conflicting reports about Issak's state in captivity with multiple hospitalizations being reported and many of his colleagues already deceased. Given the lack of information in his sentencing, it's hard to know when or if Dawit Issak will ever be released. With that said, it hasn't stopped Peter Gabriel or The Voice Project from trying, "We have to defend and protect those with the courage to speak out," says Gabriel.
Get Involved and help Dawit Issak
"Great social movements need a great soundtrack." - Tom Morello
Tom Morello - a former band member of Rage Against the Machine and currently part of the supergroup, Prophets of Rage - has been using the power of lyrics to dissent since his days in Rage.
Morello, well-known for his music as well as his activism, has joined forces with The Voice Project to raise awareness of Thai country and blues singer Thanat Thanawatcharanon, also known as Tom Dundee, who has been imprisoned since 2014 on charges of "insulting the monarchy" and "computer crimes" receiving a 10 year 10 month sentence.
In 2013 Tom Dundee spoke at a pro-democracy protest which caught the attention of the country's royalist group. In 2014, at the behest of the royalist, the military arrested Dundee for inflammatory remarks made toward Thailand's King Bhumibol and found the remarks to be worthy of prison.
For Tom Dundee protesting was a luxury, free speech was a luxury - a luxury he may never get back - and as Morello points out, "You can't buy free speech, but you can give it away. You can also fight like hell for it.”
Fight Like Hell for Tom Dundee