Remarkable courage: the flight from Eritrea

I cannot live without freedom.

martinplaut

“I cannot live without freedom.” This was how Henok Tekle, a young Eritrean explained just why he was driven to escape from his country not once, but twice!

HenokHenok – like thousands of his countrymen and women managed to make the extraordinary journey from Eritrea through Sudan and Libya.

He was shot at by border guards and almost drowning on his way to Malta.

“The waves were over our heads,” he said. “The captain wanted to abandon ship, with the only life-vest, but he was grabbed by a refugee, who would not let him go.”

Finally they made it to Malta, but rather than treated as refugees, they were imprisoned before being taken by troops to a plane and forcibly repatriated back to the Eritrean capital, Asmara.”You will be deported,” a Maltese officer told him.

His punishment was to be sent to the Dahlak Islands which contain some of Eritrea’s…

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12 distinguished scholars respond to accusations

Dr. Maximilian Forte (an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, Canada) has recently been aggressively defending an on-line article that accuses 12 distinguished scholars of research misconduct and conspiracy against a Nation. Following is a response by the accused 12 in defense of their work regarding Eritrea.

Academic Research, Intelligence Gathering, and Character Assassination: Is It the Same Everywhere?

We are among an international group of researchers – social scientists, historians, legal scholars and journalists – with decades of experience working on the Horn of Africa country of Eritrea and/or the Eritrean diaspora. We are citizens and/or residents of many countries: Eritrea, Canada, the US, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Germany, and the UK. While our perspectives and orientations differ, our research foci have largely converged around the critical interpretation of patterns of political intolerance precipitated by a militarized, authoritarian regime in power since 1991. Because of these patterns of intolerance we have all been targeted to varying degrees by the regime and its supporters – and sometimes its opponents as well. Some of us have been threatened physically and/or prevented from returning to Eritrea. Many of us have endured repeated attacks on our personal and professional integrity and efforts to discredit our research findings by suggesting that we are working as agents of foreign governments and/or intelligence agencies. In some cases information about our backgrounds and funding sources has been misrepresented to support conspiracy theories about our “real” motives or identities. Such dynamics are not unusual. In countries around the world – especially highly militarized ones, whether of the left, right, or neoliberal variety – researchers have faced similar efforts to discredit, silence, intimidate and curtail freedom of thought, information, and conscience. Continue reading

Correspondence with an Anthropologist

(Updated 9/17/2014)

Dr Maximilian Forte recently shared an article which he believes is very important. He shared Sophia Tesfamariam‘s recent blog on Zero Anthropology Facebook page with the following note:

“This article outlines and denounces the work of US anthropologists in Eritrea in US-funded campaigns backing political opposition in the country. The author of the piece [Sophia Tesfamariam] is a prominent Eritrean American activist. Those involved in the AAA [American Anthropological Association] should have a close look and perhaps consider further action.

He later posted an essay at ZeroAnthropology.net explaining why he considers her work very important:

…in light of the controversy that erupted with the publication of Sophia Tesfamariam’s outline and condemnation of western anthropologists working to support regime change in her native Eritrea…

Dr Maximilian Forte is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, Canada.

Given these circumstances, I decided on a quick read of Sophia Tesfamariam’s publication. In her most recent post, Sophia uncovers information on the identity of funding agencies that support the work of several Western scholars that write on Eritrea. To the readers’ surprise she discovered that Western agencies are the major funding sources of Western scholars. Previously this information was only available by accessing the scholars’ academic CV or LinkedIn profile.

As an example, Sophia gives the names and brief outline of nine distinguished scholars: Tricia Redeker Hepner, Dan Connell, Frank Smyth, David Bozzini, Victoria Bernal, Maryan Van Reisen, Jennifer Riggan, Sara Dorman, Kjetil Tronvoll.

***

Dr. Maximilian C. Forte

Dr. Maximilian C. Forte

As a matter of principle I do not engage with government sympathizers. I believe that anyone unable to comprehend the suffering of Eritrean people until now probably does not deserve my time.

An exception to the rule, I decided to confront Dr Forte. Following is the “correspondence” that ensued in the comment section of his ZeroAnthropology.net posting and continued on Zero Anthropology Facebook page (switched to Facebook after my last comment on the website did not appear): Continue reading

Open letter to Jehovah’s Witnesses

Date: September 1, 2014

To:
Jehovah’s Witnesses
25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn NY 11201-2483
USA

Deeply ashamed by the cruel and inhumane treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in my country, I am writing you this letter to express my solidarity with the persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea. This September it will be 20 years since Isaac Mogos, Negede Teklemariam and Paulos Eyassu were imprisoned on Saturday, September 24, 1994. The first members of your congregation to suffer extended imprisonment and torture in Eritrea.

Since becoming an independent country in 1993, my country consistently harasses, imprisons, and tortures Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I have lived all my life in Eritrean capital, Asmara. A small city that was once upon a time the home town of Isaac Mogos, Negede Teklemariam, Paulos Eyassu, and many other imprisoned members of your congregation. Asmara has not been my home since I fled my country recently. I am not a Jehovah’s Witness but my family and I have friends who are; I am a witness to the integrity and high moral standards that members of your faith have.

Although I (and the Eritrean society in general) have very little to do with the actions of my government, it is never the less my pain when innocent members of my society are subjected to such inhumane torture and imprisonment, and it is my responsibility to at least stand in solidarity and be vocal when such atrocities are being committed in my home country.

The right for everyone to choose their own religion and to practice it is a God given right. It is also a basic human right stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. No human being has the right to torture another human being. No one has the right to take away the freedom of others and to force them to change their religion.

Sincerely,

Signed: Samuel N.

___________________________________________________

Left to right: Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam; in-chains for their faith since September 24 1994. Photo taken sometime 1996 (photo from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jehovahs-Witnesses-in-Sawa-Prison-Camp-in-Eritrea)

Left to right: Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam; in-chains for their faith since September 24 1994. Photo taken sometime 1996 (photo source here )

List of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrean prisons: 20 years in prison without being charged or sentenced

Take the pledge to show your support and solidarity with the persecuted Jehovah’s witnesses in Eritrea.

Click image to show your solidarity.

Click image to show your solidarity.

List of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently in prison in Eritrea

(None have been charged or sentenced. Data retrieved from JW.org on September 2014. Download list in PDF here: List of JW in Eritrea.) Continue reading