“Open your mouth for the mute” –Proverbs 31:8

An update about the campaign to show solidarity with persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea:

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8)

By making a public pledge of solidarity with the persecuted, you have opened your mouth for the mute–for the rights of the destitute.

Throughout the month of September (the 20 year anniversary of the imprisonment of  first Jehovah’s Witnesses) 239 Eritreans have signed the pledge acknowledging the inhuman treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the Eritrean government and expressing their solidarity with the victims.

This pledge will have informed many, and reminded others, about the suffering of people back home and the level of human rights abuses in Eritrea.

Hopefully this pledge will encourage many to take a firm stand against human rights abuses and stir their hearts to do something about it. Continue reading

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.

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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.

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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

Unity in Diversity: a lesson for Eritreans

A theology professor, keen to teach his pupils on unity and love, once gave his students a simple assignment. He gave his students a blank sheet of white paper with nothing but a small black dot in one end and asked them to turn in a written description of the paper.

Eager to impress their professor the students wrote in length addressing every imaginable aspect of their assignment, some of the titles included: “shape and symmetry of the dot” another wrote, “Investigating placement of the dot and its relative location”. A student who majored college in Chemistry wrote “predicting the quality and type of ink”. Those with background in the humanities and social sciences chose to address even deeper aspects: “negative effects of the dot on paper aesthetics”, “impact of a black dot on the price of paper”. The most promising student (and the professor’s favorite) titled his essay, “Can it be removed?”.

After grading all of his students work the professor told them how, predictably, they all missed the most prominent and most important aspect.

In focusing on the peculiar problem, the dot, none of them did justice to the 99% of the page which was bleached white and flawless. Instead, they decided to focus on the problem, they addressed the page as, “the page with a black dot.” The moral of the story is that social groups and organizations (in the professor’s case, church denominations) focus on what is wrong and almost completely ignore the overwhelming aspects that unite them.

The things that divide a lot of Eritrean deleiti-fithi organizations are often few minor points—few and minor when compared to the grand causes that these organizations claim they stand for.

It is not uncommon to see Eritrean civic, humanitarian or political movements (needless to say, all in diaspora) miscommunicate, be-intolerant, engage in loud quarrels and once in a while have bitter divisions. What divides these organizations are often minor points—minor when compared to the grand and noble causes most of these organizations stand for.

Divisions are not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes divisions are un-avoidable. For example if two organizations have different priorities and/or objectives, such as aid focused organizations vs. organizations aiming to bring political change. Organizations may divide based on incompatible strategies for example non-violent resistance vs. armed insurgency. But what is a bad thing is when these organizations refuse to “agree to disagree” peacefully or they refuse to respect each other’s integrity. Instead many decide to sabotage each other’s work.

One particularly troubling attitude I notice on arguments among Eritrean activists is: many times, people allege ‘hidden’ bad intentions on the person (or group) they are disagreeing with. Why? Because, they claim, because it is impossible to have the opinion their opponent is holding unless one has bad intentions and/or is deliberately refusing to see things their way.

Who actually owns the land?—Land tenure systems of Eritrea

‘The resources of the land are neither inexhaustible nor indestructible, as many men and countries have already found to their cost’ (Dale and McLaughlin 1990)

Most Eritreans depend on the land for their survival. How land is owned is of great interest to them, in addition to survival and economics, land ownership also carries special social and political meaning to Eritreans.

Over 60% of Eritrean land is under agricultural use and agriculture is said to employ some 70 to 80% of the population. That would qualify Eritrean society to be an agrarian society (although this “70 or 80%” is most likely an outdated figure—literatures have been quoting the same figure for the past half century without citing current and original source).

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Land use categories in Eritrea (data from Kayouli, Tesfai et al. 2006)

Continue reading

ዝተመላኽዐ ዛንታ ገድሊ (ብ ዮሴፍ ገብሪሂወት)

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እዛ ጽሕፍቲ ትርጉም ናይታ “Romanticizing Ghedli (I)” ዘርእስታ ብዮሴፍ ገብሪሂወት ተጻሒፋ፡ ብ 12 መጋቢት 2008 ኣብ መርባእብ ሓበሬታ ኣስማሪኖ ዳት ኮም ዝተዘርግሐት ጽሕፍቲ እያ። ናብ ቛንቛ ትግርኛ ብ ኣዳለውቲ ጋዜጣ መሰለይ ተተርጒማ፡ “ምቅንጃው ገድሊ” ብዝብል ኣርእስቲ ከኣ ኣብ 2008 ተዘርጊሓ ኔራ። ንምርዳእ ይሕግዝ ብዝብል ገለገለ ናይኣተረጋጉማ ምትዕርራያት ገይረ ኣቅሪበያ ኣለኹ። 
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“ገድሊ”

ሓደ ካብቲ ቀንዲ ንህዝብና ኣጋጢምዎ ዘሎ ጸገማት፡ ተቐናጅዩ [ካብ መጠን ንላዕሊ ተመላኺዑ] ዝቐርብ ዛንታ ገድሊ ኤርትራ እዩ፥ መብዝሕትኡ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ነዚ ተጋኒኑን ተመላኺዑን ዝቐረበ ዛንታ ክርሕርሖ ፍቓደኛ ኣይኮነን። ምቕንጃው [ብሓሶት ዝተመላኽዐ ታሪኽ] ንሃገር ክቀትል ይኽእል’ዩ እንተ ኢልና፡ ከምዚ ናይ ኤርትራ እዩ። እዚ ሎሚ አብ ጉዳይ ሃገርና ንዕዘቦ ዘሎና ሓንቲ ሃገር ንሓደ ስነ-ሓሳብ ከተጥፍኦ እንከላ ኣይኮነን (ከምዚ እንተዝኸውን ምሓሸ ኔሩ)፥ እንታይ ደኣ ሓደ ስነ-ሓሳብ ንሓንቲ ሃገር ከጥፍኣ እንከሎ እዩ።

ገድሊን እቲ ምስኡ ተተሓሒዙ ዝኸይድ ናውትን ሓዊስካ፡ ነቲ ንነዊሕ እዋን ኣብ እንግድዑ ጾይርዎ ዝጸንሐ ህዝቢ ከቢዱዎስ፡ ኣብ ክጻወሮ ዘይክእል ደረጃ በጺሑ ይርከብ። እዚ ባዕልና ዝፈጠርናዮ ኣውሬ፡ ሃርጋፍ ሸውሃት ስለዘጥረየ፡ ሸውሃቱ ንምርዋይን ቀጻልነቱ ንምርግጋጽን ነባሪ ዝኾነ ናይ “መስዋእቲ” ባህሊ ክፍጠር ኣድልይዎ። ንሓደ ንጹር ዘይኮነ፡ ደብዛዝን ኣካራኻሪን ሕልሚ ንምውሓስ፡ በዚ ጸይቀ-ግኑን ኣውሬ ሓደ ወለዶ ድሕሪ እቲ ሓደ ክብልዑን ክሃልቑን ኣለዎም። ሎሚ ኣብዚ ናይ መወዳእታ ዕምሩ ድማ፡ ንመላእ ሃገር ንኸጽንት ኣብ ምውጥዋጥ ይርከብ። ሻዕብያ ክመውት እንተኾይኑ፡ ሃገር ድማ ምስኡ ከም እትመውት ኣቀዲሙ ወሲኑ’ዩ። ዛጊት ብዙሓት ኤርትራውያን፡ ክንዲ ነቲ ናይ ሃገር ሱር ሕማሞም ኮይኑ ዘሎ “ገድሊ” ምምራር፣ ገድሊ ድኣ ኣይኹን እምበር ንዝኾነ ካልእ ነገር ክውንጅሉን ሓላፍነት ከሰክሙን ይመርጹ።

እቲ ኣዝዩ ዝገርመኒ ነገር፡ ኣብ ዝኾነ ይኹን ጉዳይ ሃገር ቅንጣብ እኳ ክሰማምዑ ዘይክእሉ ወገናት ከይተረፈ፡ ሓደ ዘሰማምዖም ነገር እንተሎ፡ እቲ ተመላኺዑ ዘሎ ዛንታ ገድሊ እዩ። ዝተመላኽዐ ዛንታ ገድሊ ማለት፡ ንገድሊ ጸጽቡቑ ካብ መጠን ንላዕሊ ምግናን፥ ነቲ ገግናዩ ከኣ ምንእኣስን ከምዘይነበረ ምኽሓድን እዩ። Continue reading

Eritrea: Map of Terror

When was the last time someone beat you violently?
Do you remember yourself screaming at the top of your lung, begging for mercy?

Most Eritreans can answer these questions with an exact date. And it probably happened in one of these ‘prisons’. Click on the image to be directed to an interactive map.

Click image to be directed to the interactive map.

Click image to be directed to the interactive map.