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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 23, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged the European Union (EU) to closely watch Eritrea over gross human rights violations by the regime which Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity.

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Eritrean president, Isias Afewerki (AFP Photo)

RSF issued the statement while paying tribute to the 11 Eritrean journalists held indefinitely in inhuman conditions since September 2001.

The 2001 crackdown against journalists in Eritrea came one year after the country ended a bloody war with its larger neighbour, Ethiopia, over border dispute.

On September 2001, some 15 high-ranking officials from the ruling People’s Front for Democracy party wrote a protest letter to President Isaias Afwerki calling him for reform, implement the constitution and conduct national elections.
The open letter further blames the president for going to war with Ethiopia which claimed the lives of 70,000 people.

They said the war was unnecessary and accused the president of taking actions that were “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The protest letter which shortly led to the arrest of the then known as G-15 was widely published by a number of independent Media leading to arrest of editors of all the independent print media.

The government also shut down all independent media in Eritrea.

This month marks 15 year in jail without charge for the 11 journalists.

A report last year by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea said the regime in Asmara is responsible for systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations.

The grave human right violations the report said have created a climate of fear in which dissent is stifled, a large proportion of the population is subjected to forced labour and imprisonment, and hundreds of thousands forced to flee the country.

With this regard RSF urged the European Union, which is trying to normalize its relations with Asmara, to not close its eyes to actions that constitute crimes against humanity and violations of the Eritrean population’s fundamental rights.

“We also address this message to the EU governments that are negotiating a return to normal relations with Asmara without asking about political prisoners and human rights,” RSF said.

The rights group said at least 15 journalists are currently detained arbitrarily in Eritrea but the number might be higher because no information emerges from the secretive nation.

Extrajudicial killings, widespread torture, sexual slavery are also among right abuses long been reported by right groups.

Western governments have lately shown a clear interest to normalize relations with the reclusive East African nation as part of their strategy to stem a huge flow of Eritrean refugees to European soil.

“The EU cannot close its eyes to the Eritrean government’s countless violations, which a UN Human Rights Council report in June described as ‘crimes against humanity.’ The EU cannot adopt a conciliatory position towards the Afeworki regime” it added.

Among the arrested journalists seven are believed to have died in detention.

“We call on President Afeworki to stop persisting in these arbitrary and repressive practices and to free the journalists who are still imprisoned,” RSF said.

“The freedoms of Eritrea’s citizens have been constantly flouted for the past 15 years on the grounds of national security and the eternal conflict with Ethiopia”

“The president says his priority is development. You cannot have sustainable development without an open society in which the justice system functions and freedoms are respected,” it added.

Eritrea has been ranked last out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index every year for the past eight years.

Referred by right groups as the North Korea of Africa, the Red Sea nation is one of the world’s most repressive states.

Currently there are an estimated 10,000 political prisoners in atrocious conditions in different prison facilities across the country where they remain subjected to different forms of abuses.



In this undated photo, we see three young men who have since spent over 22 years of their lives in prison / Photo permission received via












In this undated photo, we see three young men who have since spent over 22 years of their lives in prison / Photo permission received via

James Skye
Published on:23 September 2016

Just teenagers at the time, all three are Jehovah's Witnesses, and they refuse to compromise their integrity.

On September 24, 1994, three young men, all teenagers, were rounded up and sent to a concentration camp. Their crime? They refused military service on the grounds of their strongly held religious convictions – an entitlement that ironically, one year later, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reinforced as an acceptable concession that all world nations should adhere to.

Nevertheless, down to this very day, Paulos Eyassu, Negede Teklemariam and Isaac Mogos – all Jehovah’s Witnesses – remain jailed in the Sawa prison camp in the country of #Eritrea, eastern Africa. Without the benefit of any legal framework, the men were detained without cause, without due process and incredulously, have never been formally charged with any crime.

The prisoners have spent their youth behind bars.
The three detainees are all now in the 40s. They have given up the primes of their lives – the chance to wed and start a family – and their opportunity to worship their God shoulder to shoulder with fellow believers. They quietly remain steadfast in their determination to endure for what they know in their hearts is pleasing in God’s eyes.

“It is in Eritrea, more than anywhere else in the world, that Jehovah’s Witnesses experience the most intense persecution,” says a report on the Jehovah’s Witnesses web site, The three men are among 55 other Jehovah’s Witnesses jailed in Eritrea for either conscientious objection to conscription military service or for their peaceful religious activity.

By this, all will know you are my disciples...
In a country like Eritrea – where a citizen and a solder and perceived as one and the same – Jehovah’s Witnesses stand out in stark contrast. They will endure prison camps, beatings and torture, but they will not join military ranks. They steadfastly believe in “beating their swords into plowshares” and not “learning war anymore,” says the book of Isaiah. Their international brotherhood practices love for one another. (John 13:34, 35) No Jehovah’s Witness would ever be found in a battlefield, looking across at a fellow Witness, waiting to kill one another or anyone else. Jesus said in the verse cited above that all would know who his disciples are, if they have "love among themselves." If only all major religions practiced what they preached.

US Department of State report.
According to a US Department of State commentary on religious freedoms in Eritrea, citizens there are generally “tolerant of those practicing other religions; exceptions included negative societal attitudes toward Jehovah's Witnesses… and conscientious objectors to military service based on religious beliefs.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are the largest recognized religious organization whose members welcome disciplinary alternatives as opposed to taking up arms in wars.

The State department report also details how government officials actively and intentionally single out Witnesses of Jehovah and subject them to unlawful actions and targeted discrimination. “Although members of several religious groups were imprisoned in past years for failure to participate in required national military service, the government singled out Jehovah's Witnesses to receive harsher treatment than that given to others,” the report cites, adding that many of the religion’s members have been detained for more than a decade and a half – a term “far beyond the maximum legal penalty of two years for refusing to perform national service.”

In addition, Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea have had their business licenses revoked without cause, been evicted out of government-subsidized housing units and been denied common government paperwork needed for travel, such as passports and visas.

Philip Brumley, general counsel for Jehovah’s Witnesses: “It is our fervent hope that the government of Eritrea will release all Witness prisoners, including these three men who have been detained for 20 years, and bring an end to the persecution of our fellow believers.” #News #Jehovahs Witnesses




According to the International Organization for Migration, Eritreans and Somalis make up some of the largest numbers of African refugees who have attempted to reach Europe by rubber boat and overloaded dinghy over the past two years. But most of them are not coming straight from their despotic and war-torn countries. They usually start their journeys in the vast refugee camps of Ethiopia, where conditions are wretched and opportunities scarce. The refugees might be safe from conflict and persecution, but few see the camps as a viable alternative to living in war, famine or under an oppressive dictatorship like Eritrea’s. So they leave in esperate search of something better in Europe.

Read More: The Only Way to Stop African Migrants Is to Improve Conditions at Home

Which is why the recently announced plan by Britain, the European Union and the World Bank to build a industrial parks and create 100,000 jobs in Ethiopia is one of the first promising moves in a long litany of half-hearted attempts to deal with Europe’s migration crisis. The plan, which was initially proposed by the Ethiopian government, calls for two industrial parks to be built at a cost of $500 million. In exchange, Ethiopia, which currently hosts 700,000 refugees mostly from Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, is required to grant employment rights to 30,000 asylum seekers. Many of the jobs at the new industrial parks will be reserved for citizens of Ethiopia, which is facing its own unemployment crisis, and has also seen many of its own nationals attempt the same dangerous routes to Europe.

In making the announcement at the U.N. summit on refugees in New York City on Sept. 21, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said the project would be a model of support for other poor countries hosting large refugee populations. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, who are home to 4.5 million Syrian refugees, and Kenya, which hosts more than 500,000 refugees from Somalia and South Sudan could greatly benefit from similar deals.

Read More: The Army of Volunteers Helping Migrants in the Calais Jungle

Giving people opportunities at home, whether they are refugees or citizens, is an important first step towards stemming the illegal, and dangerous, trafficking of migrants into Europe. But it isn’t the only one. No matter how many jobs are created, there will always be people who want to migrate, whether to start a new life, see something new, or rejoin family. And Europe, which is facing a demographic crisis as its own population numbers decline, will need those migrants to flourish. So while creating jobs in Ethiopia, and elsewhere, is essential for decreasing the outward flow of job seekers, destination countries will still have to create legal, and safe, channels for those they need, and those who are going to come anyway.


By our dpa-correspondent and  auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Stockholm (dpa) - Supporters of Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak demonstrated Friday in commemoration of his 15th year in prison without trial in Eritrea.

Dawit Isaak, a Swedish national of Eritrean origin, was arrested September 23, 2001, amid a clampdown on independent newspapers by the authorities in the East African nation. Little has been heard from him since and he is not allowed visits.

"We will not give up until he is free," Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told broadcaster TV4 after she met Thursday with her Eritrean counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

She described the anniversary as "a day of sorrow."

One of Isaak‘s three children, his oldest daughter, Bethelem Isaak, said she was convinced her father was still alive. She welcomed efforts seeking his release as well as "the many expressions of support."

Newspapers as well as radio and television stations also reported on his fate.

At the Stockholm Central Station, a support group set up a replica of a cell that Isaak, 51, is believed to be confined in, offering visitors to sit in it for 15-minute slots.

Isaak‘s fate was also highlighted at the ongoing book fair in the west coast city of Gothenburg, which this year has selected freedom of expression as its theme.

Isaak sought asylum in Sweden in 1987 and became a citizen in 1992. About eight years later he returned to Eritrea to work for the independent weekly Setit.

Eritrea ranks at the bottom of a list of 180 nations in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the campaigning organization Reporters Without Borders.

Those on board were Egyptian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Somalian, although it was not clear where the boat was travelling to.


A migrant boat carrying almost 600 people from Egypt, the new hotspot for people smugglers, has capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 43 people. Those on board were Egyptian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Somali refugees. It was not clear where the boat was travelling to, but it was thought to be Italy.

Egypt boat capsizesEgyptian men and policemen gather along the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, during a search operation after a boat carrying refugees capsized in the MediterraneanMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesPeople gather along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea during a search for victims after a boat capsized in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgypt boat capsizesPeople gather along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea during a search for victims after a boat capsized in Al-Beheira, EgyptReutersEgypt boat capsizesPeople gather along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea during a search for victims after a boat capsized in Al-Beheira, EgyptReutersEgypt boat capsizesEgyptian men and policemen react after bodies are discovered along the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, during the search operation after a boat capsized in the MediterraneanMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesA member of the Egyptian armed forces stands guard on the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, during the searchMohamed el-Shahed/ AFP

Survivors were detained before being taken to a nearby hospital in Rosetta and were handcuffed to their beds as they received medical attention. Others were taken to a police station, awaiting news as to what will happen to them next. Dozens of family members of those who had been on board gathered at a coastguard checkpoint, awaiting news of missing relatives. Local officials said that 31 bodies had been discovered, 20 men, 10 women and one child. A Reuters correspondent saw a fishing boat bring in 12 more bodies, bringing the death toll to 43.

Egypt boat capsizesSecurity officers line up Sudanese people who have been detained at a police station in Rosetta, EgyptEman Helal/ APEgypt boat capsizesSurvivors from a boat that capsized, off Egypt's north coast, sit in a police station in Rashid in northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesA survivor from a boat that capsized off Egypt's north coast, rests in a police station in Rashid in northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesYoung Egyptians detained at a police station sleep on the floor in Rosetta, Egypt, after being rescuedEman Helal/ APEgypt boat capsizesA survivor from a boat that capsized off Egypt's north coast, sit in a police station in Rashid in northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesSurvivors from a boat that capsized off Egypt's north coast, sit in a police station in Rashid in northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesYoung Egyptians detained at a police station sleep on the floor after being rescuedEman Helal/ AP

Shaabaan Darwish told Reuters of the despair family members felt when they tried to inform the coastguards that the boat was sinking. "I'm waiting for my cousin. We ran to tell the (coastguard) that the boat was sinking and the people were dying. But they do not care for the people who died, the country we live in looks to these people as dogs, not human beings, because if they had treated them like human beings, the Navy would have been informed and not so many people would have died. But, what is it to them but some dogs who died, this isn't our country. This is not our country."

EgyptRelatives of missing persons from a capsized boat in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgyptRelatives of missing persons from a capsized boat in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgyptRelatives of missing persons from a capsized boat in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgypt boat capsizesRelatives of missing persons who were onboard the boat, which in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgypt boat capsizesPeople who were rescued from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgypt boat capsizesPeople who were rescued from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ ReutersEgypt boat capsizesPeople who were rescued from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, EgyptMohamed Abd El Ghany/ Reuters

Abdelrahman al-Mohamady, a fisherman who used his boat to search for survivors, told Reuters the Egyptian coastguard showed up hours after the accident. He said: "Nobody came. We returned 91 people, including a Syrian woman who died, whom we picked up out of the water. We didn't see anyone [officials]. Anyone who was saved here, was saved by the fishermen boats. The coastguard arrived in the afternoon, after 5pm. The families of the migrants have been here since dawn. If the general in charge had called the Navy then, none of them would have died."

Egypt boat capsizesAhmed Gamal, a 17-year-old Egyptian teenager from Kafr Shukr, lies in bed at Rashid hospital in Rosetta, northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesMetwaly Mohamed Ahmed, an Egyptian man, sleeps at a hospital in Rosetta, Egypt, after being detainedEman Helal/ APEgypt boat capsizesSameh Mohamed Ahmed Abdel Dayem, an 18-years old Egyptian student from Kafr El-Sheikh, lies in bed after being rescuedMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesBader Mohammed Abdel Hafez, a 29-years old Egyptiqn from Faqous, Sharkia Governorate, lies in bed at Rashid hospital in Rosetta, northern EgyptMohamed el-Shahed/ AFPEgypt boat capsizesPeople lie in bed at Rashid hospital in Rosetta, northern Egypt, after being rescuedMohamed el-Shahed/ AFP

The number of refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Europe has increased significantly in the past year. Over 12,000 people arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September, compared with 7,000 in the same period last year. This is due to new routes, particularly from Egypt, which are longer and far more risky according to the International Organisation for Migration. The refugee crisis has proven deeply divisive in Europe, which has failed to come up with a unified response, while thousands continue to die at sea, desperately trying to escape war-torn countries and severe poverty. World leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, gathered in New York this week at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the crisis.

Egypt boat capsizesPeople gather along the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, during a search operation after a boat carrying migrants capsized in the MediterraneanAFP/ Getty Images

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 21, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Eritrean opposition group, Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) on Wednesday said that Yemen’s Houthi group have attacked the international Airport of Assab, a port city in the Southern Red Sea Region of Eritrea.

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A Houthi Shiite rebel carries his weapon as he joins others to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen on 1 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Hani Mohamed)

Ibrahim Haron, leader of the armed opposition group told Sudan Tribune that Houthi forces stationed in the island of Hanish and Zagar have also attacked the headquarters of the Eritrean naval forces in Assab by firing mortar rockets thereby causing a serious damage.

The attack comes days after reports disclosed that Saudi Arabia has transferred some 5,000 Yemeni militants to Eritrea for military exercise in the Red Sea country.

According to the reports, Riyadh is transferring the militants from Aden to Eritrea’s Assab port to go under military trainings and then be sent to the Saudi provinces bordering Yemen to back the Saudi led war in Yemen.

The Eritrean government has dismissed the reports saying “a preposterous lie peddled for some ulterior motives”

The opposition leader said Eritrean authorities have imposed a tight security cordon in the areas following Monday’s attack.

Ibrahim said Eritrea government motive to cooperate with the Saudi-led coalition is because Asmara has a long standing border dispute with Yemen.

The countries had previously engaged in a bitter war with Yemen over the disputed Islands of Hanish and Zagar.

In 1998, the international Tribunal of the international Committee ruled the islands in favour of Yemen; Eritrea however refused to accept the ruling.

He added that Eritrea had been serving as a base for military training for anti-Yemen groups in order to create destabilization and instability in Yemen and in the region at large.

“When the situation in Yemen changed and appeared new events and the emergence of coalition forces, Eritrea favoured the Arab coalition to ensure financial, political and military gains” Ibrahim told Sudan Tribune by telephone from the Eritrean-Ethiopian common border.


Meanwhile the Eritrean opposition group today alleged that an Eritrean Air force pilot has defected to Saudi Arabia by flying a military Aircraft.

According to opposition officials, the Eritrean pilot defected on Tuesday along with his two aides becoming the latest members of the Eritrean Air force to defect from the reclusive east African Sea nation.

The Captain pilot and two of his aides flew to Jizan region in south of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The defectors have asked for political asylum but it is not yet clear if the kingdom has grant them an asylum.

Ibrahim said the latest defection is a big blow to President Isaias Afeworki led regime.

He says it is an apparent sign of growing discontent of the air force personnel and the military against the oppressive region.

In previous years, there have been defections in thousands from the Eritrean army, navy and air forces as the regime retains grip on power for over two-decades.

President Isaias has been in power since the country gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.



Natalie Brown: New US Chief of Mission to Eritrea

Thursday, 22 September 2016 10:54 Written by

SEPTEMBER 21, 2016,,,,

Meet Natalie Brown, the new U.S. Chief of Mission to Eritrea. Natalie Brown is honored to serve as the United States Chief of Mission to Eritrea.

Throughout her career as a diplomat, she has worked to advance democratic values, enhance peace and security, promote economic prosperity and encourage the education and societal participation of women and girls. She is looking forward to sharing Eritrea’s rich culture and history.


15 Years Behind Bars in Eritrea

Monday, 19 September 2016 23:47 Written by

Allies Should Push On Whereabouts of Opposition Members and Journalists


This week marks 15 years since Eritrea’s opposition politicians and independent journalists saw freedom. In September 2001,Eritrean security forces arrested11 government officials, 10 journalists, and numerous other dissidents, all of whom had one thing in common – they had criticized President Isaias Afeworki’s leadership. None of them have been seen since.

Eritrea protests

Eritrean refugees hold placards during a protest against the Eritrean government outside their embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel May 11, 2015.

None have been charged with a crime. They have now been held in incommunicado and indefinite detention for fifteen years. They have never been visited by family members. International calls for their release have been wholly ignored. Information from prison guards and others over time has trickled out, suggesting that several have died in captivity. In June, Osman Saleh, Eritrea’s foreign minister gave hope to family members and friends when hestated to Radio France Internationale(RFI) that “they are alive”.

Eritrea is one of the worse abusers of human rights in Africa. It has no functioning legislature, no opposition parties, and no independent media. National service, where people are forced to work for the military or in other government positions, is intended to last for 18 months but is often much longer –a decade or more – and harsh, with almost non-existent pay. Arbitrary detention is commonplace, particularly for those who try to evade national service. Many Eritreans report torture in detention. There is no rule of law, and there are restrictions on movement within many parts of Eritrea – for Eritreans and foreigners alike. Thousands of Eritreans flee their country each year to Ethiopia, Sudan, and Europe seeking a better future.

In June 2016, a UN Commission of Inquiry determined that abuses committed by the Eritrean regime are likely toconstitute crimes against humanity. The Commission of Inquiry report will be presented to the UN General Assembly for consideration on October 27.

Over the past two years, the EU and several countries have broken with the isolationist approach historically adopted on Eritrea and opened renewed dialogue and partnerships.

On this anniversary of Eritrea’s crackdown, the EU and Eritrea’s other new-found friends should push for information about the whereabouts of those arrested in September 2001. If they are still alive, they should be charged and tried fairly and impartially, or released immediately. 

For their family members, information about their well-being and whereabouts is long overdue. And for the Eritrean government, the move would signal they are serious about starting to implement reforms that they have spoken about but not delivered on. 

It would be a particularly important signal to give ahead of the UN General Assembly’s debate.


Ciham Ali Abdu pictured just before the time of her arrest on December 8, 2012 when she was 15. (Photo: courtesy of the family)Ciham Ali Abdu pictured just before the time of her arrest on December 8, 2012 when she was 15. (Photo: courtesy of the family)

Ciham Ali Abdu of Eritrea was 15 years old when she was arrested as she tried to cross the border into Sudan. Born in Los Angeles, California, she is the only American citizen imprisoned in Eritrea.

Her family, friends and the representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Asmara have had no news about her whereabouts or her health for the nearly four years she has been in prison.

Ciham is also a unique case. She is the daughter of Ali Abdu, the former minister of information of Eritrea who was one of the closest advisors to the country’s president, Isaias Afwerki. When he fled the country in December of 2012, it sent shockwaves across the nation since he was believed to be unfalteringly loyal to the regime.


Ali’s then 87-year-old father, Abdu Ahmed Younis, his brother Hassen Abdu Ahmed and Ciham were all arrested shortly after his departure and many believe they were punished as retribution for Ali’s decision to flee.

Last week, Ciham’s fate was one of the topics raised at a subcommittee hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives convened by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee titled “Eritrea: A Neglected Regional Threat.”

Linda Thomas–Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said the United States raises the issue of Ciham with Eritrean officials during joint meetings, but have received no information.

Eric Whitaker, the former Charge d’Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, said Eritrean officials do not acknowledge that Ciham is a U.S. citizen. “We’ve asked for consular access repeatedly and not been granted it. We are concerned regarding the case,” he said. “The answers we get are typically vague or note that such individual is an Eritrean citizen.”

Ciham left the United States when she was one or two years old, her uncle said. VOA contacted Eritrea’s Minister of Information Yemane Gebremeskel and he declined to comment. In Twitter comments about the hearings he dismissed the U.S. House proceedings as “perfunctory” and a “rehash” of old information.

Ciham’s uncle, Saleh Younis, said the family is desperate for news about her and their other imprisoned family members. He said this was the first time he had heard details about the U.S. embassy’s efforts to get information about Ciham and he is disappointed that they haven’t put more pressure on the Eritrean government.

He also noted that most people caught at the border trying to flee Eritrea are detained for several months or a maximum of two years, making it clear that Ciham is being held indefinitely as a punishment for her father’s actions. “It’s a country without rules, without a system,” Saleh said. “It’s a country where the president and his small clique do whatever they want to do. When we’re talking about human rights violations it’s not in the abstract that we’re talking about, it is these kinds of agonies people go through.”

Saleh is the editor of, an Eritrean news website that is opposed to the government and its policies.

Ali Abdu is currently in Australia where he is seeking asylum. In an affidavit submitted to the government in support of his case which has been widelyposted onlineAli said he is suffering from insomnia and heart pains and has suicidal thoughts. He said he fears for his family in Eritrea and fears that a member of the Eritrean diaspora could seek to harm him in Australia.

“The more I talk about my secrets the more I am worried and shivering about my safety because I know what crazy things the president can do to me. Even in Melbourne I am very recognizable and I fear that government supporters are following me,” he said. 


Chairman of the House Subcommittee, Chris Smith, Republican Representative from New Jersey, cited figures from a former U.S. ambassador indicating that about 48 Eritrean national employees of the embassy were arrested or detained between 2001 and 2010 and it is unclear how many remain in detention. Smith requested additional information relating to those employees and relating to Ciham.

Thomas-Greenfield said the embassy has asked for access and information relating to these cases. “We have had over the years our foreign service nationals harassed. Some arrested and some who are still currently being held by the government,” she said. “We never miss an opportunity to raise this with the government of Eritrea encouraging them to release the American citizen but also to release our employees who have been arrested and to discontinue the harassment of our employees.”


Today marks a bleak date in the country’s history, when a paranoid elite began a brutal campaign to cement its grip on power

A migrant from Eritrea is helped after jumping into the water from a crowded wooden boat.
A migrant from Eritrea is helped after jumping into the water from a crowded wooden boat. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/AP

Exactly 15 years ago, Eritrea’shard-won independencewas hijacked by a paranoid political elite who have clung to power ever since.

It was on this day in 2001 that President Isaias Afwerki jailed 11 top government officials and banned seven independent newspapers. So started the insidious takeover that has seen the country become a military state, prompting the exodus of Eritreans to Europe we are witnessing today.

State security agents then rounded up and jailed 12 journalists. To this day, none of the detainees have been tried in a court of law, and theyremain incommunicadoin secret prisons. Their families don’t know if they are alive.

Many civilian posts were taken over by military commanders. The army was stationed in all major towns and cities, and anyone working in the public sector was instructed to report to them.

As army rule crept in, the rule of law deteriorated. Institutionalised corruption and nepotism became the new normal. Arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances turned the country into a penitentiary state with countless underground prisons.

Recent research byEritrean human rights groupssuggests more than 360 facilities are still holding more than 10,000 prisoners of conscience.

After the ban on the private newspapers, information became centralised. State journalists continue to work under intense fear, and foreign correspondents and NGOs have in effect been banned from entering. The few who do gain access are providedwith government mindersnot unlike in North Korea.

Even a state-sanctioned radio station, Radio Bana, sponsored by the education ministry, was banned.The station was raided in February 2009and the security services arrested the entire staff, many of whom were only released afterfour to six years in jailwithout charge.

In 2012, the country introduced compulsory military service for all young men and women, including former freedom fighters. In the years since then,the UN has found the governmenthas “committed crimes against humanity in a widespread and systematic manner”, and has called for perpetrators to be tried by the international criminal court.

It is combination of all these factors that is causing an estimated 5,000 Eritreans to leave the country each month. It’s not surprising: when a generation of young people have had all hope and freedom taken away from them, the gamble of the journey across the Mediterranean offers an attractive alternative – no matter the risk.

I am one of those who escaped. I now work with a group of Eritrean journalists in exile to report on our inaccessible homeland and campaign on behalf of our peers stuck in prison. If we don’t speak for them, nobody will.