Eritrea: Hidden Oppression in Eritrea

Rome (HAN) October 4, 2014. Expert Analysis, Your Power & Regional Influence Magazine, opinion page By, Vittorio Longhi is an Italian journalist. His latest book is “The Immigrant War: A Global Movement Against Discrimination and Exploitation.”

In Europe’s debate about how to deal with the flow of desperate migrants from Africa, there is an important element missing: the crisis in Eritrea. Every month almost 4,000 Eritreans flee to escape oppression, according to a United Nations special rapporteur.

WE WILL NEVER NEVER NEVER FORGET YOU: Here is a piece written by some one very wise I hope the writer does not mind sharing it.
IN THE ARMS OF JESUS
If you knew where I am standing
If you could see the sights I see
If you could hear the angels singing
The songs they sing eternally
If you knew the one I am holding
To see the smile, he smiles at me
If you know where I am resting
You would not cry for me.
I am resting in the arms of Jesus
No other place would I rather be
So if you shed a tear, please don’t shed it for me
For if you know where I am resting
You would not cry for me.

A visit to Asmara, the Eritrean capital, is revealing. In the cafes you won’t hear people talking about the government of President Isaias Afewerki, and in the streets you will never see a march or a demonstration. Any sign of protest is quickly crushed, and opponents of the government face immediate imprisonment and torture, often in underground jails in remote areas. There they are stuffed into metal containers where the heat is unbearable, and given little food or water. The right to trial does not exist, and those convicted have no recourse to appeal.

This oppression is eerily invisible. You won’t see police officers along the sunny avenues of Asmara, nor are there soldiers around. But if you have a camera and start taking pictures, people stare and point at you. In this silent, secret system of terror, reminiscent of Soviet communism, every citizen is a potential spy.

The government in Eritrea exercises control also through the “national service,” which is compulsory and open-ended for both men and women from the age of 17. It is easy to see why Eritreans will risk dangerous journeys to escape.

On Oct. 3, 2013, 366 young Eritreans drowned off the tiny island of Lampedusa. The night after the shipwreck, I watched the survivors mourn the dead. They were taken to an airport hangar to wander among long rows of dark wooden coffins, and a line of five little white coffins for the children. The weeping sounded like a howl of despair for a generation fated to live in a country where hope for a better future had been banished. It was a cry for help.

As people gathered in the main streets of Asmara after the shipwreck to view photos of the dead, the police arrived to disperse the crowd, but not before making a list of those who attended.

“Nobody will come to save us,” said a 30-year-old teacher I met on my way to Asmara in May, who asked not to be identified. At one time, she said, she worked for European NGOs, but these organizations were expelled by the government in 2006. President Afewerki denies that the country needs any aid or assistance from foreigners.

“Isaias keeps isolating our country so that nobody can see what happens here,” the teacher told me.

State workers earn an average monthly salary of 500 nakfa (about $15 at the black market rate) and represent cheap labor for both the public and private sectors, especially in mining and construction, where Chinese investments are growing. Many Eritreans rely on informal work to feed their families. In Massawa, once a major port on the Red Sea, Awate Tsegay rents his car to foreigners and hopes to earn enough money to cross the border and join his brothers in Sudan.

“Military officers ask up to $1,000 per person to hide you in a car so that you can get through safely,” he said.

The government tacitly encourages illegal migration, recently introducing a 2 percent tax on remittances from abroad.

Once in Sudan, Eritreans avoid the police and take any job available, until they can hire a trafficker to take them to Libya or Egypt, where they can attempt the sea crossing to Europe. The desert crossing is perilous, and many refugees fall victim to torture and organ harvesting.

Meanwhile, President Afewerki, who has ruled for 20 years, still plays the role of the victim. He uses the pretext of the border conflict with Ethiopia to justify tight control over his people. European Union diplomats have expressed concern about the systematic violation of human rights. But if Europe were serious about addressing the causes of the exodus from Eritrea, it would put more pressure on Mr. Afewerki to loosen his grip.

Likewise, the international community has done little to resolve the border conflict. Even less has been done to support Eritrean opposition forces, which could challenge the generals and set the country on the path to democratic elections. But the Eritrean opposition is fractured and presents little threat to the Afewerki government.

“The most active democratic groups are based elsewhere, in Sudan or Europe,” says Valentina Fusari, a researcher in Asmara. Smaller ethnic groups of dissidents are in exile and too disorganized to be an option.

At this stage, without a coordinated effort by the opposition, the dictatorship will keep perpetuating terror and forcing its people to choose between the loss of their freedom if they stay, or a potentially deadly journey if they leave.

Photo: Giulio Napolitano, Photographer


 
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4 COMMENTS

  1. Listen….we fought 30 years war alone. and now, we will fight another 30 years war to build our country. GOD BLESS PRESIDENT AFEWERKI. WE LOVE YOU. WE ARE BEHIND YOU.

    EVER DAY THE US, EUROPE, AU, OR UN KEEP WRITING BAD THINGS ABOUT ERITREA, WHY? BECAUSE WE ERITREAN BELIEVE IN SELF-RELIANCE.

    REMEMBER ….WE DON’T NEED USA OR UN. WHAT WE NEED IS THAT THEY NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE. ………………..PLEASE LEAVE MY PRESIDENT ALONE. IT IS ERITREAN BUSINESS.

    HERO AFEWERKI……..GOD OR ALLAH BLESS YOU.

  2. THERE IS NOTHING HIDDEN ABOUT THIS, ERITREA IS A BIG PRISSON CELL, THE KILLING, DETENTION, SLAVERY AND OPRESSION IS ALL IN THE OPEN.
    (You have my permission to post, repost my comment in part or in full).
    WHY ARE WE STILL SILENT ERITREA????????
    Where is my freedom Eritrea? Where is my democracy? Where is my constitution?
    Why is that thousands of our bright men and women decaying in jail without due process? Why are the G-15 in jail? What did they write in their open letter? Which court processed their case? Why is that all our independent news papers closed and why are all the bright journalists in jail without due process?
    Why is that thousands of our bright youngsters, future leaders, doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, scientists abandoning our country in throve?
    How come after 24 years we couldn’t restore the basic services like water and electricity red in our cities?
    Why are we isolated from the rest of the world? How come we have too many enemies but no friends in the world?
    I hope by now you have all the answers for all the above questions, as for me it was clear back then and it very clear now.
    ERITREA ….it is because we have a criminal murderer regime led by a drug addict ISAYAS AFEWORKI who does not have the knowledge or the desire to see a prosperous democratic Eritrea governed by the RULE of LAW.
    ERITREA…..You can’t keep on pressing the snooze button, this murderer ISAYAS is destroying the fabric of our society and dismantling our country in pieces.
    ERITREA……our country is bleeding and crying for help and you are still silent.
    ERITREA…….wake up Eritrea and yes those 366 men, women and children who perished in LAMPADUSA are definitely NOT ILLIGAL AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS but rather LEGAL ERITREAN CHILDREN running away from ILLIGAL MURDERER CRIMINAL REGIM of ISAYAS AFEWORKI in ERITREA.
    We CAN NOT afford to be silent any more.
    Thank you our freedom fighters, AMANUEL EYASU for your relentless fight, KIBROM DAFLA for your detail interview about robbery of our treasury, Natanael Estefannos for your educational interview and thousands of you freedom fighters DO NOT LET UP >
    ERITREANS we have more in common to UNITE us than to DIVIDE us.
    SMERRRRRRRRRRRR wedi hager.

  3. First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me–
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Martin Niemoller

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