Our attitude determines the destination: an Eritrean cry

By Desale Okubamichael
dessu81 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

The euphoria

During our long and tortuous history, our attitude made us win, and it made us lose. We feel both the successes and the losses deep in our hearts.

The achievement of independence in 1991 was a miracle. All the heroism and determination that went into winning caused an awesome feeling. The joy and the celebration are printed in my memory. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Most Eritreans had great hope for the future at that time. We trusted the EPLF fighters as our gods. I thought they would turn Eritrea into a peaceful and prosperous country. I thought Eritreans would be equally rich.

But I had no understanding of democracy, diplomatic relationships, or economic policies — I had no clue about the external world. I thought everybody was an enemy of Eritrea and everyone was either a past or a potential coloniser. The one thing I was sure of was that Eritrea’s time had come and Eritreans would be free forever and own their future.

The fighters were so exciting to watch: wearing simple shorts and shirts, strapping on their web belts, cleaning their guns with skill, and dutifully following instructions from their commanders. Members from all of Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups looked the same in those uniforms and seemed to be in harmony with each other: men, women, Muslims, Christians, the educated and the uneducated ready to give their best and die for their people if needed. The freedom feeling and the song “Wesede Ayay B’al Sere” are still fresh in my memory.

What could go wrong under these fighters and their leadership? Continue reading

Isaias Afewerki hides behind the term ‘Shaebia’: a selfless servant of the system

As the leader of an authoritarian government, president Isaias Afewerki is responsible for everything his government does. This is one of those very few facts that everyone agrees on — his supporters and opponents.

In spite of this fact, it is not normal for Eritreans to refer to the political system or the ‘era’ of its rule by the supreme leader (like you would for similar dictators like Mengistu or Idi Amin) or at least by its party name (like you would for the Ethiopian Derg or the ‘communists’). Eritreans refer to their system by an abstract name that attributes to the government’s political ideology–which itself is very abstract. The term ‘Shaebia‘ is the natural way of referring to their government. For example, you would caution a friend saying “Shaebia don’t like that.”; you would speak of a government supporter as “She is Shaebia.”; who killed him? “Shaebia killed him.”

Some people try to equate Shaebia with PFDJ, the ruling party, hoping to avoid controversies associated with the pre-independence elements of the current government (which is a hot potato issue and should be avoided whenever possible). But PFDJ does not feel right, and it does not cover the many ways the term ‘Shaebia’ is used. For instance, in the example above it would not be appropriate to say someone is PFDJ. PFDJ is the bureaucracy, it does not represent the ‘spirit’ of the government.

Let me elaborate this point with a true story from 2003 (or was it 2004). A sympathetic military police (MP) was escorting my friend to jail. My friend had publicly confronted a person in a cafe who reported on his brother’s whereabouts to the government that led to his brother’s arrest. A military officer heard of the confrontation and ordered the MP to take my friend to jail (a very normal Eritrean story so far). With a compassionate tone, the MP that was escorting my friend said, “You shouldn’t have done that friend, you don’t do that with Shaebia, they don’t tolerate such things.” My friend angrily replied, “who is Shaebia? is that you? you’re the one taking me to jail. Is it your commanding officer? his boss? who?”. The poor MP muttered with a deep thought for a while and struggling to find the right words he replied, “I don’t think it’s my boss or anything like that, Shaebia is…Shaebia is the spirit.”

“PFDJ is the bureaucracy, it does not represent the ‘spirit’ of the government.”

When discussing Eritrean politics and oppression, people who have not lived in Eritrea may think ‘Isaias Afewerki’, ‘the dictator’. People in Eritrea simply think ‘Shaebia’.

This line of thinking is significant because it hides Isaias Afewerki, the dictator, and obscures the personality cult that is pretty much there.  Isaias Afewerki has successfully managed to make himself invisible behind the Shaebia ‘concept’. In fact, Isaias Afewerki is simply a humble servant of the Shaebia. The appeal supporters and sympathizers see in Isaias Afewerki are that he is, apparently, a selfless servant of ‘the system’. He is a true Shaebia.

To the everyday Eritrean, using the phrases ‘PFDJ’, ‘Higidef’ or ‘DIA’ are as strange as referring to super PACs as ‘independent-expenditure only committees’. More accurate but it is as confusing and non-intuitive as the wordings in Facebook’s Terms and Conditions.

“Shaebia is an amorphous collage of things.”

Saebi

Shaebia is an amorphous collage of things.

What’s really ‘inside Eritrea’? a comment on the misuse of Millennium Development Goals records by the BBC World News and others

Because the government does not allow journalists into the country, reporting is often done by interpreting “the signs” from a distance.

The recent European migrant crisis has added to the curiosity about the African state of Eritrea[1].

Eritreans make up a huge proportion of migrants to Europe. In 2015, one-fourth of the migrants to reach Italy by boat were Eritreans[2]. These numbers are alarming given the population size of Eritrea. Eritrean population, estimated at six million, is only a fraction of the other top migrant-producing countries to Europe.

The suffering of Eritreans is an internationally well-recognized fact[3]. Migrants from Eritrea and Syria are the only two nationalities that have over 90 per cent asylum recognition rate in EU states[4]. This means the EU recognizes nine out of ten migrant from Eritrea as legitimate refugees that need protection from their own country. Continue reading

ተጋዳላይ–ሲቪል:- ናይ ኤርትራ ኣፓርታይድ

ኣብ ኤርትራ ተጋደልቲ ናይ በይኖም ዓሌት ኣይኮኑን። ከምኡ ድማ ንሕና ሲቪል ዜጋታት ዓሌት ኣይኮንናን። ይኹን ደኣ እምበር ብመንጽር መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ተጋዳላይን ሲቪልን ክልተ ዝተፈላልዩ ደረጃታት ዜግነት እዮም። ነዚ ኣብ ሃገርና ንቡር ኮይኑ ዘሎ ኣፋላላይ ቀው ኢልና ምስ እነስተውዕሎ፣ ብብዙሕ መዳያቱ ምስ ስርዓት ኣፓርታይድ ይመሳሰል’ዩ።

ብዘመነ ኣፓርታይድ: ኣብ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃ: ጸዕዳ ምዃን ምንም ገበን የብሉን። ገበነኛስ እቲ ንጸዕዳ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃዊ ልዕሊ ጸሊም ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃዊ ጌሩ ዝቖጽር ፈላላዩ ሕገ መንግስቲ እዩ።

ብዘመነ ኣፓርታይድ: ጸዕዳ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃዊ ምዃን ዓወትን ሃብትን፣ ወይ ድማ ካብ መንግስቲ ፍሉይ ክብረት፣ ፍሉይ ምትሕብባርን ሓገዝን ግድን የውህበካ ማለት ኣይኮነን። አረ ብዙሓት መደንገጽ ጸዓዱ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃውያን ነይሮምዮም። ብዙሓት ድኻታት ጸዓዱ ኔሮም: ብዙሓት ውጹዓት ጸዓዱ ኔሮም። እዚ ማለት ግን ኣፓርታይድ ኣይነበረን፣ ወይውን እቲ ስርዓት ኣፓርታይድ ድኹም’ዩ ኔሩ ማለት ኣትይኮነን።

ብተመሳሳሊ ኣብ ሃገርና ሎሚ: ብዙሓት ዘይጠዓሞም፣ መደንገጽ፣ ተጋደልቲ ኣለዉና። ኩሎም ተጋደልቲ ኣብ ስልጣን ዘይምህላዎም፣ ወይ ውን ኩሎም ተጋደልቲ ጥዒምዎም ዘይምህላዉ ምልክት ድኽመት “ኣፓርታይድ” ኣብ ኤርትራ ክኸውን ኣይክእልንዩ።

ብመንጽሩ ግና: ሓደኳ ሲቪል በዓል ስልጣን ዘይምህላዉ ንህላወ “ኣፓርታይድ” ኣብ ኤርትራ የርእየና። ኣብ ኤርትራ: ኩሉ ዝርኤ ስልጣናት (ከምኒ ኣመሓዳሪ፣ ሚኒስተር፣ ኣምባሳደር)፣ ከምኡ’ውን ኩሉ ‘ዘይርኤ’ ስልጣናት (ብድሕረ መድረክ ኣብ’ቲ ውልቀ-ምልኪ ጽልዋ ዘለዎም፣ ወይ ከኣ ዘተግብሩ) ብ ተጋደልቲ እዩ። እዚ “ኣፓርታይድ” ወለዶ ውን ይሰግርን እናሰገረን እዩ። ንኣብነት ነቲ መንግስቲ ልዕል ዝበለ ተኣማንነንት (loyalty) የድልዮ ንዝበሎ ናይ ወተሃደር-ነፋሪት ምብራር (ፓይሎት) ናይ ትምህርቲ ዕድል ንሲቪል መንእሰይ በጭራሽ ኣይወሃብን።

ከምቲ ኣቀዲመ ዝበልክዎ: ብዘመነ ኣፓርታይድ: ኣብ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃ ጸዕዳ ምዃን ምንም ገበን የብሉን። ግናኸ ጸዕዳ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃዊ ኮንካ ብኣካይዳ ኣፓርታይድ ዘይምጉሃይ፣ ዘይ-ጸዓዱ ዜጋታት ክግፉዑ ርኢኻ “ዓገብ” ዘይምባል፣ ብፍላይ ይብደሉ ምህላዎም ዘይምእማን፣ ወዘተ. ተኻፋሊ ወይውን ተጠቃሚ ግፍዒ ኣፓርታይድ ይገብረካ እዩ።

ተጋዳላይ፣ ወዲ-ተጋዳላይ ወይ ውን ዕባይ ቤት-ትምህርቲ-ሰውራ ምዃን ገበን የብሉን። የግዳስ ብግብርካ ወይ ውን ብዘይ ምግባርካ: ብ ስቕታኻ: ተኻፋሊ “ኣፓርታይድ”፣ ወይ ከኣ ተጠቃሚ ግፍዒ “ኣፓርታይድ” ኣብ ኤርትራ ክትከውን ኣዝዩ ዝከኣልዩ።

 

Eritrean president and  high ranking officials at Independence Day celebration in Asmara May 24, 2007.

Eritrean president and high ranking officials at Independence Day celebration in Asmara May 24, 2007. All high ranking government officials are former soldiers of the EPLF group.

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ነዚ ኣብ ሃገርና ንቡር ዝኾነ ተጋዳላይ–ሲቪል ምፍልላይ ዜጋታት: “ኣፓርታይድ” ክትብሎ: ቃልብቓሉ ቅኑዕ ኣጸዋውዓ ኣይከውንን። ኣፓርታይድ (Apartheid) ዝብል ቃል ቀንዲ መቦቆሉ ካብቲ ኣብ ኣብ ደቡብ-ኣፍሪቃ ካብ 1948 ክሳዕ 1990 ዝነበረ: ማዕርነት ጸዓዱን ጸለምትን ዜጋታት ዘየኽብር ሕገ መንግስቲ እዩ። ካብዚ ዝነቐለ ድማ ሎሚ ሓደ ምምሕዳር ኣብ መንጎ ዜጋታት ሃገሩ: ዓሌታዊ ኣፈላላይ ምስ ዝገብር “ኣፓርታይድ” ብዝብል ንገልጾ።

We speak therefore we are –Republic no.2

A monthly underground newsletter from inside Eritrea has it’s second issue. Republic, written in Tigrinya language, is critical of the government. Criticizing the government or it’s policies is a crime in Eritrea.
You can download this new issue from here (Repuplic_Eritrea_Vol2).

Click image to download Republic in PDF

Click image to download Republic in PDF

You can follow Republic newsletter on twitter.

ኣይፋልኩምን ዴምህት!

“መንቀሳቐሲ!”
መዓልካ ከይበለ ንዝዘንጠለካ ጓና
ኮር ተገምጠል’ዩ ክንድዚ መሽክንክን ልመና፣
አብ ዝደበነ ገጹ ፍሽኽታ ሰዅዑ
ውሪሕሪሕ ቁሊሕሊሕ፣ የማነጸጋም ጥቕኡ።

… ተገፋፊ

ከም ከፍቲ ናብ ዕዳጋ፣ ዝውሰዱ ናብ ማሕረዲ
ኮብኪቦም ይወስድዎም ነቶም ግዳያት መዓልቲ፣
ብዘይ ፈሪሃ ‘ዝግሄር፣ ብዘይ ንሕስያ
አሕሊፎም ሃብዎም ካን ን ሻዕብያ።

… ወተሃደራት ዴ.ም.ህ.ት.

ዝተመላኽዐ ዛንታ ገድሊ (ብ ዮሴፍ ገብሪሂወት)

__________________________
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

Accepting the gift, rejecting the giver: Eritrean independence

Every Eritrean owes his or her citizenship to the current government.

I was in first grade when the brave triumphant revolutionary forces (the EPLF Tegadelti) marched into the city in 1991, ending decades of civil war and three decades of liberation struggle.

How does one accept the gift but reject the giver? The independence we so deserve was brought about by cruel and lawless bandits*. This is at the heart of Eritreans’ dilemma.

The common Tigrinya saying “ተቐባል ሌባ”, meaning whoever accepts goods from a thief is a thief himself, is overly simplistic to explain our dilemma. The saying assumes the “goods” one is accepting or buying from the thief is not rightly his in the first place which makes the verdict relatively meaningful.

In the case of Eritrean independence, the ‘liberators’ are outlaws because of how they fought the ‘good-fight’. To mention some of the morally repugnant practices that gave birth to our precious independence:

  • Widespread practice of slavery: raiding villages to ‘recruit’ soldiers to fight in the front lines. Killing or torturing those that dared to refuse to participate. (The “Stop National Service/Slavery in Eritrea” campaign should back me up on this).
  • Abduction and use of child soldiers: Routinely rounding up and ‘recruiting’ the underage to the army. Testimony of Yordanos Haile Michael is in no way an exception. (By the way, many Eritreans are happy to defend and downplay this practice, repugnant. Current practices are harder to swallow though [1])
  • Widespread practice of extra-judicial killings: Executing soldiers within their ‘army’ for asking too much questions. Assassinating civilians in cities that did not support the insurgency for one reason or another.

I only mention these because these are the most widely practiced and most undisputed atrocities of the insurgency that handed us our citizenship.

The matter of rejecting the outlaws and condemning their outlaw practices makes an Eritrean feel uneasy and a bit hypocritical.

Can you accept the hard won gift of independence and at the same time acknowledge the atrocities the gift-giver has committed to get you that gift? Alternatively, Can you reject a gift that you so deserve; a gift that was taken away from you by violence simply because slavery and child soldiers were used to retrieve that gift?

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebrations. Also the 23rd year of his presidency.

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebration, May 24 2014. President of the state for the past 23 years and commander in chief of the armed forces (former insurgency) for 39 years.

*“cruel bandits” not meant to describe individual fighters who gave all they have believing the EPLF’s propaganda.

{This article is also published at Asmarino.com}

Eritrea: The authorized version of events

coat_of_arms_of_eritrea

The Eritrean government propaganda are so outrageous that even the hardcore government supporters have to tune-down government propaganda in an effort to make the claims seem less stupid.

Even critics often moderate many of the government’s claims just to make them reasonable enough to be critiqued (for the claims are silly beyond that possible to criticize).

The above is taken from my post a year ago, “Eritrea according to the government”. Then I discussed how the “authorized version” of Eritrea is nothing like the Eritrea people talk about. Government supporters and critiques alike routinely moderate the government’s stand on things. It’s not fair.

Below I have laid out the typical government position on various things. I am playing the sober government official. This piece is not a satire.

[These government stands are pretty much “common knowledge” for anyone who follows Eritrean government affairs.]

The authorized version of events

(1) Arrest of G-15

It is common knowledge that 15 or so high officials were arrested in 2001. Some people focus on the “how” and on minor technical details. Doing so they miss the big picture: “why?”

The G-15 were not arrested for criticizing or challenging the government. The Eritrean political culture is based on constructive criticism and discussion. Those officials were arrested for treason and for collaboration with the enemy. They trampled on the blood of our martyrs and decided to negotiate through back channels with our enemies (Western powers and Ethiopia) in order to ‘sell’ Eritrea for personal gains.

Talking on the “how” and on technical aspects of their arrest… true there might have been certain procedural oversights, or even blunders I dare say. But that should not divert us from the big picture. They deserve to be arrested. Justice needed to be done.

(2) Freedom of Press

Eritrea does not ban independent media inside the country. The closing down of the three or so non-Eritrean-government owned media had nothing to do with freedom of press. The reason these newspapers were closed in 2001 was because it was found that these newspapers were being subsidized and operated by Western elements. We have evidences that suggest they were being used by foreign intelligence agencies. Obviously we cannot allow foregn intelligence agencies to operate in Eritrea.

Various Western so called human rights and press freedom organizations have accused us of lack of press freedom. This is baseless accusation.

Reporters Without Borders  for example has ranked Eritrea as having the lowest press freedom in the world while at the same time, simultaneously, ranking Eritrea alongside North Korea. This shows the West is ignorant of North Korea.

(3) Arrest of ‘journalists’

Our constitution guarantees freedom of press and the government holds this right dear. What must be emphasized is that the so called journalists who were allegedly arrested in 2001 were not arrested for their journalistic work. No one in Eritrea has ever been arrested for being a journalist.

(4) Closing of the only University

The University was restructured to meet the ever increasing number of new students. The university was restructured and its resources reallocated to various new colleges. The new colleges were purposely installed across all regions of the country to ensure equal development of all regions of Eritrea. In short the university was “multiplied” by opening new institutions of higher education.

As a result the number of students enrolling and graduating across the country has grown dramatically. The new colleges have their own challenges: they might be less equipped, infrastructure is still basic and so on. But that is the price we are willing to pay for the future development of education for all.

(5) Detention of University students in 2001

In 2001 students of University of Asmara volunteered to work on development projects in their summer break. Accordingly the government assigned the students  to participate in the reconstruction of their country. The students were assigned to work on rural Eritrea for the summer, which they did.

Some media outlets deliberately distorted this simple fact and made outrageous accusation on the government. They reported that because the university students refused to comply to work without compensation, the  government had detained the entire student body (over 2,000 students) in a desert military camp at Wia (about 45 kilometers south of Massawa city) for months. Such reports are utter rubbish.

(6) Involvement with Al-Shabaab of Somalia

We have been accused of arming, training, and equipping armed groups including al-Shabaab. And hence become the victims of an un-just sanction by the UN Security Council since December 2009.

Eritrea supports the self determination of the Somali people and condemns the involvement of any foreign powers trying to institute puppet government in Somali.

The Eritrean government is committed to helping the Somali people by all diplomatic and political means. Other than that the Eritrean government has never armed, trained, and/or equipped any armed group in Somalia or in the region.

(7) Clashes with Djibouti

The United Nations and the Djibouti government claimed that Eritrea had military clashes with Djibouti on 10 to 12 June of 2008. Furthermore, they claim that Eritrea has refused to disclose information on Djibouti combatants killed or captured in these so called clashes.

The government of Eritrea deny there ever was any military clashes with Djibouti. The government, therefore, has no knowledge of and cannot produce the allegedly ‘missing’ Djibouti combatants.

If there was any minor border skirmishes between Djibouti and our border patrols: we deny any minor border skirmishes.

It is a shame that this false information, along with false allegations of trying to destabilize parts of Horn of Africa was used to impose UN sanction on Eritrea in 2009.

(8) Detention of Orthodox Patriarch: Abune Antonios

The Eritrean Orthodox Church is the biggest Christian denomination in the nation. Regarding the administration of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the government of Eritrea has knowledge of the following: Abune Antonios was elected Patriarch by the Holy Synod on March 2004 and enthroned as the third Patriarch of the Eritrean Church on April 2004. On January 2006 the Holy Synod decided to remove the Patriarch and elected Patriarch Dioscoros as his successor.

We have heard allegations that the Eritrean government was involved in removing the Patriarch. Some have even gone as far as accusing us of detaining His holiness the ex-Patriarch.

As matter of principle the Eritrean government does not involve in any internal working of religious organizations. We cannot comment on church internal procedures. We don’t keep track of citizens and we don’t have any reason to investigate the whereabouts of the ex-Patriarch Abune Antonios.

(9) Persecution of religions

Eritrea guarantees the freedom of thought and freedom of religion. Various Western so called human rights organizations (including the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International) have accused us of religious intolerance. We stand accused of the banning of houses of worship, torture, arbitrary arrest of persons based on religion (including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Orthodox Christians, and Moslems). In addition we stand accused of interfering in the religious orders and the administration of the Eritrean Orthodox, the Catholic, the Lutheran and the Moslem.

We deny all accusations.

(10) Restriction of travel within or outside the country

This piece of misinformation is repeated everywhere that it is often accepted by the gullible without question.

The government of Eritrea does not impose travel restrictions. This misinformation stems from the fact that Eritreans doing their military service under the National Service are not allowed to leave the country without completing their national duty.

In addition while doing military duty, conscripts are of course subject to certain restrictions of the army barracks they are in. this is standard procedure for any country. Otherwise any Eritrean who has completed his or her National Service is free to leave and enter the country just like anywhere in the world.

(11) Shoot-to-kill border policy

Eritrea is currently in a standoff with the Ethiopian occupiers. The Ethiopian government currently has occupied land that belongs to Eritrea and has refused to heed to the the final and binding arbitration of the  The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EECB).

Due to the extensive militarization of our borders and the repeated incursion of Ethiopian army units into our borders, people illegally crossing the border risk being mistaken for enemy combatants. So far the government has not reported of any incident (accident) in which a civilian was shot at, but it would not be unprecedented if that happens given the tense nature of our borders.

People caught leaving or entering our borders illegally are brought before civilian Court and processed according to the law. It is unthinkable that any citizen risks arbitrary arrest, torture or even death for crossing our borders illegally.

(12) Indefinite conscription

The Eritrean law requires that all men and women spend 18 months of National Service which includes six months of military training. Draft dodging is a crime and is punished as such. Cases are handled on a case by case bases and I cannot comment (nor can I remember by heart) on the possible punishment handed to individuals for draft dodging, but I can definitely guarantee that any punishment the Eritrean legal system issues if fair and fits the level of the crime.

_________________________________

*please e-mail me (DissidentDiaries@Gmail.com) or use the form below to send me additional topics I should address.

 

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.”

_____________________

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