when Dawit was arrested

Dawit Wolde Aregai %22I didnt expect%22 quote November 2018.jpg

After meeting a year ago in The Welcome Tent at Dutch Design Week, this year Dawit Wolde Aregai and Emma Barrett Palmer were back, this time hosted in the Evaluation team at Dutch Design Week to undertake a film evaluation of less heard voices in the design world.

After an incredible few days gathering great footage, discovering and elevating the voices of people from many different backgrounds and circumstances with over 14 nationalities, on route back to his girlfriend’s, Dawit was arrested.

Dawit had - and never has - done anything wrong: he has no criminal record. But, he was trafficked into Europe against his will when he was a child and six years later is still waiting for official papers. He said:


I didn’t expect to be treated like that in a democratic country. These are things I only see in the movies, or in my own country.

People need to know and wake the hell up. Everyone should be aware of how this is affecting our world.

This is my first time arrested like this. Arrested on the train, thrown in jail, with no windows, no nothing.

To hold me, without any convictions, without any problems. To be thrown in jail just because “we don’t know who you are”.

At 3am they came in. We are taking your photo. We are taking you to another place at 5am. No sleep.

My lawyer got me out the next day. I may have got lucky as I can speak the language fluently. What about others who don’t understand, who cannot explain.

Now I am scared – everyday – to walk outside


This horrific experience for Dawit and his family and friends, demonstrates why we are doing what we are doing. This is why we are “Actively Anti-Racist” (via @rachel.cargle). Dawit was not arrested because he had done anything wrong, he was arrested because the authorities assumed he was guilty. As they told him, they did not believe he was telling the truth about who he was because he spoke fluent Dutch, because he was dressed well and perhaps, because he said he had been working at Dutch Design Week.

We are thankful to his lawyer for getting him out within 24 hours (albeit much longer than the legal maximum of six hours), but that does not alleviate the trauma to him and his family.

We are grateful that Dawit is OK and more committed than ever to share his wisdom and strength to work with us elevating and evaluating the voices and stories of people silenced by our current system. The DDW18 Evaluation film is still on route.

No human being is illegal. We are listening ✌🏽❤️✊🏽