The dialogue with Elsa Chyrum

“Has God deliberately blinded us, or is it that we are callous because we have seen too much suffering.” Elsa Chyrum  challenged the Eritrean community, “We can’t continue living our daily lives as if nothing is happening.” She said our first objective should be “to remove this regime and to institute a system that respects human rights.”

Elsa Chyrum

Elsa Chyrum delivering her talk after a brief introduction by Almaz Negash (not in photo)

In addition to the talk by the respected Eritrean human rights activist Ms. Elsa Chyrum, the Conference titled “A Dialogue with Elsa Chyrum on the Global Crisis of Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers.” had three main speakers: Almaz Negash, Saleh Gadi Johar and Saleh Younis. The event was predominantly conducted in Tigrinya language and ‘live’ English translation was projected for non-native attendees.

Elsa was modest in her talk and hardly talked about her work and achievements. Saleh Younis pointed this out and asked that she explain the recent hunger strike she did in protest of the detentions of Eritrean refugees in Djibouti. She explained that she took the action out of desperation having exhausted all hope that the Djibouti authorities would ever take the matter seriously. She pleaded and begged Djibouti authorities, at some point even met with the current Prime Minister.  “I even pleaded that they at-least release the Eritreans to neighboring countries under police escort if need be,” she said. Elsa said after the hunger strike, the UNHCR now recognizes the Eritreans in Djibouti as refugees and she believes that the international community has now put pressure on Djibouti authorities to resolve the matter.

Throughout her talk, Elsa was very soft-spoken person. One can feel genuine concern for the pain of Eritreans in her speech. During a visit to Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia, Elsa said she was touched to see hundreds and hundreds of young children who left Eritrea without their parents. “Seeing these little children living alone in refugee camp, seeing the future generation of Eritrea in such sad state I felt ill immediately. I had stomach pain that lasted for almost six months after wards.” Elsa said.

When asked a question on what we the diaspora need to do, Elsa replied that  it is important we start with helping those in our surrounding, “Our actions have to start with helping Eritrea refugees locally. We can achieve most there.”

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Saleh Gadi Johar centered his talk on human trafficking, “Human trafficking is not unique to Eritrea, its a global phenomena. So what makes human trafficking in Eritrea different?” After briefly highlighting global human trafficking challenges, he said that we should try to tackle it at the organization level and we should focus less on the ‘foot soldiers’ committing the crimes.

In one instance he likened human trafficking to drug smuggling and how difficult it is even for the greatest nations to tackle, “we have become like fire fighters running around trying to put out fire here and there, let us ask bigger questions ‘Who benefits from human trafficking of Eritreans?’… lets research and try to catch the bigger fish.” He also expressed his disappointment that many don’t actively involve in fighting human trafficking, “In four years [of research] I only have two phone numbers that belong to kidnappers. So why are we not open about it. I can understand it is difficult to inform on kidnappers when your loved ones are in the hands of traffickers but we should actively try to expose the criminals once we get our loved ones freed.”

"Either you are an activist or you are not." -Saleh Gadi Johar

“Either you are an activist or you are not.” -Saleh Gadi Johar

Saleh Younis talked on issues of Eritrea refugees, “Both the pull factor and the push factors that drive Eritreans to flee have increased in the past years.” He said, “and those responsible for either side blame each other as the main cause. Those responsible for the ‘push’ factor blame that the West is making it too easy for Eritreans to be granted Asylum, those on the ‘pull’ side complain that the tyrant needn’t press his boot so hard on his population.”

SalehY

“Decades of abuse have made the Eritrean pride dissolve away from Eritreans” -Saleh Younis

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An Eritrean Refugee, Stephanos Semere, who was a conscript of the Eritrean regime for nine years gave a testimony of his flight from Eritrea and the challenges he faced on his way to the USA.

The talks session was followed by a panel discussion with question and answer session.

Worried that I might miss my train, I had to leave early. According to the program flyer the conference ended with Closing Remarks  followed by Award of Appreciation presented to Elsa Chyrum on behalf of the Bay Area Eritrean Community.

flyer

Sponsors of the event from the flyer

Noteworthy Eritrean Web Sites

Awate.com

“Fearless News, Opinion, Analysis On Eritrea and Beyond”

Awate is an Online news, opinion, debate and politics site about Eritrea. First launched in the year 2000, Awate Foundation, as it is known, is a non-profit administered by Saleh “Gadi” Johar (Founder and Publisher) and Saleh AA Younis (Editor-In-Chief). It is run with private donations and volunteers. Awate is based in the United States: Elk Grove, California.

awate stat

This table shows location of people who access awate.com (estimate by alexa.com)

ΞInteresting: Awate publish contents in English, Arabic and Tigrinya languages. It is credited as the first opposition website to produce original materials. Awate.com contains mainly political commentary and opinion articles.

Among other items, Awate.com publishes 10 to 20 English articles (>1200 words) every month attracting 80,000 to 200,000 visits. Approximately 10,000 to 40,000 of these monthly visits are from unique visitors (i.e. from different IP addresses).

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Asmarino.com

“The revolution of the human spirit!”

Asmarino Independent is an Online community for Eritreans and friends of Eritrea, with history, news, chat, bulletin boards, poetry, and more. Asmarino Independent website was first launched 1997. Asmarino Independent is based in the United States: Cerritos, California.

asmarino.com visitors

This table shows location of people who access asmarino.com (estimate by alexa.com).

ΞInteresting: Asmarino.com Publishes content in English, Arabic and Tigrinya languages. First established as an online Eritrean community focused on culture and art, it quickely evolved to become a prominent political website in early 2000’s. Asmarino.com hosts opposition radios: Voice of Delina, Radio Liberty, and Radio Erena. Asmarino.com published “መዝገብ ስውኣት 1998-2001”, leaked name list and statistics of 22,015 Eritrean martyrs’ who died during the border conflict with Ethiopia in the years 1998-2001 [available at http://wall.asmarino.com/].

Recent postings are rotated in the homepage top banner making it easy for the frequent visitor to find new updates, and the website’s search box makes it easy to search articles if you know what or who you are looking for. Otherwise, navigating the website is not easy. The long list of menu items in landscape orientation can be confusing. Oddly Asmarino.com don’t have an about page.

Every month Asmarino Independent website is visited 70,000 to 200,000 times. Roughly 15,000 to 50, 000 of these visits are from unique visitors (i.e. from different IP addresses).

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Assenna.com

“For freedom of speech”

Assenna is an Online news website focusing on politics, culture and religion. Assenna was first launched in 2009. Assenna website is run by Amanuel Eyasu Gebrekidan (founder), an exiled Eritrean journalist. Assenna is based in London, United Kingdom.

assenna stat

This table shows location of people who access assenna.com (estimate by alexa.com)

ΞInteresting: Assenna.com is the go to site for news on Eritrea. Assenna.com publishes in English and Tigrinya languages. Assenna.com also broadcast radio program “Radio Assenna” to Eritrea. Breaking news may appear a piece at a time on this website and sometimes speed comes at the expense of report quality, some breaking news have been found to contain errors in the past.

Oddly Assenna.com don’t have an about page.

Monthly Assenna website gets 150,000 to 330,000 visits making it the most visited Eritrean diaspora website. Roughly 62,000 to 140,000 of these visits are from unique visitors (i.e. different IP addresses).

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Harnnet.org

“The Official Eritrean People’s Democratic Party Web Site”

Harnnet.org is an Online news site for Eritreans and friends of Eritrea, with history, news, articles, commentary and more. First launched 2010 (soon after the formation of EPDP) Harnnet.org website is operated by EPDP. Harnnet.org website server is based in the United States, Illinois.

ΞInteresting: The Eritrean Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) is a result of the unity of three Eritrean government opposition groups. The Eritrean People’s Party (EPP), Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP) and Eritrean Peoples Movement (EPM) merged in January 2010.

Harnnet.org host Radio Liberty Tigrinya and Arabic. The website publishes in English, Arabic and Tigrinya. Harnnet.org website has roughly 1,600 to 10,000 unique visitors every month.

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Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive (ehrea.org)

Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive (EHREA) is an Online archive documenting human rights abuses in Eritrea. It’s mission is to increase public awareness of injustices carried out in Eritrea and to serve as a platform to hasten the introduction of justice and democracy in Eritrea. First launched 2007, EHREA website is founded by Resoum Kidane. The websites server is based in the United States.

ΞInteresting: Contents are primarily in English but also contain Tigrinya and Arabic languages. It is hard to visit this site and not be heart broken by its contents. This site dares to indiscriminately document human rights abuses starting from crimes committed by Ethiopia, the ELF (Jebha), EPLF (Shaebia) and the current Eritrean government (PFDJ).

Noteworthy is a document titled “Reflections on the Eritrean People Struggle for Independence”, researched and compiled by Resoum Kidane. It is a history of Eritrean struggle with emphasis on human rights. This document contains many useful links as well.

The design and organization of the website is not easy to understand, however there is a handy “search” tool for navigation to what you are looking for. EHREA website gets from 15,000 to 25,000 visits per month from thousands of unique visitors.

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Useful References/tools

  • Dan Connell and Tom Killion (2011), Historical Dictionary of Eritrea, second edition.
  • Eritrea: Africa, South of the Sahara selected internet resources, Stanford University Libraries [http://www-sul.stanford.edu/]
  • Eritrea: Human Rights Web Archive, Columbia University Libraries [http://hrwa.cul.columbia.edu]
  • Website Traffic Estimates: Alexa.com, Traffic Estimate.com and Google Display Network Ad Planner.

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These five websites are what I think are the most prominent. Which other site do you think I should add? Leave me a comment.