The beginning of the end for the PFDJ in Norway

Friday, 09 September 2022 11:35 Written by

300 Norwegian Eritreans are happy and proud to be part of an historic event. They believe that this victory is the beginning of the end of PFDJ.

For 20 years, Eritreans have been blackmailed for money by the dictator in Eritrea via associations that collaborate with the regime.
There are close to 30,000 Eritreans living in Norway today. The report “Pressure and Control” by Norwegian the government shows that the Norwegian-Eritreans have been controlled and divided via regime-friendly churches and associations.
“The Eritrean association in Oslo and the surrounding areas” is a good example of this.
They rented Ekeberghallen and invited a so-called cultural Eritrean Festival on 3 September. But the Festival was canceled by the Oslo Eritrean Association after protests from angry Eritrean youth.
The Eritrean Festival has been cancelled by angry youths in all 7 cities the organisation has visited in Europe!
Their festival has been labelled a “HateFestival” because they talk and sing political propaganda in favour of the dictatorship in Eritrea; for Putin’s war in Ukraine, and also make hateful statements against Tigray and against regime-critical Eritreans!
“Enough is Enough”, is what young people are now chanting. They managed to flee across the Mediterranean with their lives at stake. But In the EU and Norway, they were found by associations and churches praising the dictator they had fled from and and a festival and that pays tribute to Putin for the war in Ukraine. This must end!
MP Ola Elvestuen (Liberal) met about 300 Eritrean young people from Tromsø, Bodø, Trondheim, Ålesund, Bergen, Stavanger, Southern Norway and Eastern Norway!
In a passionate speech to the young Eritreans he explained that he had sent written questions to Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl. But the answer he received was that the Minister of Justice could do no more than ask Eritreans who had problems to ask to the police for help.  He thought this was a weak reply and Elvestuen says he will follow up the matter in the Storting (Parlement) in the autumn.
Then there was a victory rally on the stairs at Jernbanetorget!
Ole Elvestuen believed that this expulsion of a Hatfestival in Norway and the EU marks a “time difference and is only the beginning to a better future for the Eritreans in Norway and the EU”. Eritreans applauded and many know they have made a new friend in the Parliament.
In the evening, the whole group celebrated for this historic event with Eritrean music food and dance! “This is the beginning of the end,” they say.
Now Pfdj – the dictator’s long arm into Norway will be crushed with the help of the power of the Storting (parliament), say the 300 victorious Eritrean youths.
The case of Eritrea shows that totalitarian systems are inherently toxic, and that no amount of “engagement” will change them.

Totalitarianism Is Still With Us

The case of Eritrea shows that totalitarian systems are inherently toxic, and that no amount of “engagement” will change them.

Source The Atlantic       

By Steve Walker

SEPTEMBER 5, 2022

There was only one surprise in the vote tally for a United Nations General Assembly resolution in March condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. As a wholly owned Vladimir Putin subsidiary, Belarus naturally followed instructions from headquarters; Syria’s “no” vote was repayment to the capo dei capi in Moscow for his regime-saving military support; and of course North Korea voted no. But Eritrea? Why would a little country in the Horn of Africa with no significant ties or obligations to Russia choose, at such a highly charged geopolitical moment, to give the finger to established norms of international behavior, in the process incurring irreversible reputational damage while seemingly gaining nothing?

The case of Eritrea is worth considering because, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it reminds us of a lesson the West should not forget as it navigates“post-truth” geopolitics: that totalitarian systems are inherently toxic and by their very nature destabilizing, and that no amount of “engagement” will change them.

I,like all first-time visitors to Eritrea’s capital, was charmed by Asmara when I arrived as the new chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in 2019. The streets are immaculate; thanks to its Art Deco architecture, a living legacy of the Italian colonial period, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the weather is perfect.

But in truth Eritrea is a human-rights house of horrors. Dissent is illegal. There is no independent press. Under compulsory, indefinite national service, citizens are conscripted or assigned to civilian jobs. The country has never held a national election. Eritreans live in a state of perpetual fear: Secret police and informers proliferate; arrests are arbitrary; citizens are routinely detained but not told on what charge, and the lucky ones who are released are given no reason for their freedom and are told to keep silent. Thanks to “revolutionary” economic policies, Eritrea is poor, has no infrastructure to speak of and thus no realistic hope for economic development, and is chronically food insecure. Before the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in northern Ethiopia made cross-border travel impossible, hundreds of Eritreans fled their country every day.

From the May 1988 issue: The loneliest war

The regime’s desire for total control—“social mobilization” justified by an eternal state of emergency—pervades all sectors of Eritrean society. Citizens wishing to go abroad must get an exit visa; those traveling within the country must have “circulation papers” and produce them for armed soldiers at checkpoints along the way. There are four recognized religions; all other worship is illegal. Eritreans are allowed to withdraw only the equivalent of $330 a month from their bank accounts, and they must do this in person at bank branches because there are no ATMs in Eritrea and online banking does not exist. I wanted to visit a privately owned dairy last spring but was told that this would require a written invitation from the dairy, which then had to be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture for approval, then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would decide whether to issue a travel permit. Evil may be banal, but in Eritrea, it is also ridiculous.

Eritrea didn’t exist when Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former diplomat and political scientist, wrote her classic “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” but the pariah state that today haunts the Horn of Africa confirms her essay’s contention that totalitarian systems are more pernicious than authoritarian ones, ideologically constructed in a way that precludes liberalization, and inevitably destabilizing. I read Kirkpatrick’s essay in graduate school. I forgot its important lessons.

Instead, I recall with not a little embarrassment that I arrived in Asmara eager to “constructively engage” and optimistic that, through hard work and patience, I could improve ties between the U.S. and Eritrea. I was not alone in this newbie enthusiasm: Many a diplomat accredited to Eritrea has arrived brimming with energy and ambition only to depart a few years later frustrated, exhausted, and with little to show in terms of tangible achievements. My time in Eritrea was eventful, encompassing the coronavirus pandemic, the civil-war-like conflict in northern Ethiopia, and a drastic deterioration in our bilateral relationship. The experience was an education in the unique challenges that totalitarian systems pose. As a foreign-policy practitioner, I arrived at a number of conclusions about dealing with totalitarian states that are, in essence, a set of practical diplomatic corollaries to Kirkpatrick’s conceptual framework. (These represent my own views, not necessarily those of the Department of State.)

1: Diplomatic engagement with totalitarian states is futile. The Eritrean regime loves to “engage”—to participate in and publicize talks and meetings that give the impression of openness and reasonability. During these interactions, however, Eritrean officials make clear to their foreign interlocutors that the regime will, as they told one of my colleagues, “compromise on process but not on principles.” In other words, you can “engage” indefinitely, but nothing is going to stop the regime from terrorizing and impoverishing its people, or destabilizing the region. (It has for decades intervened in, or triggered, conflicts and civil wars in neighboring states.) There is a natural tendency among diplomats, in Washington and elsewhere, to favor engagement. This is understandable, but potentially dangerous because engagement, if not carefully calibrated, risks legitimizing totalitarian regimes. The U.S., like-minded countries, and the UN should continue to deal with Eritrea, and even cooperate on issues of mutual interest, but this should be tactical interaction subordinate to a strategic appreciation that the regime is inimical, if not hostile, to our interests and values.

2: We should support oppressed populations by acknowledging their lived reality. Totalitarian regimes aren’t satisfied with political control. They demand the pervasive control that can only come by determining the “truth.” According to the carefully curated narrative propagated by the Ministry of Information, Eritrea is an African David engaged in a righteous fight for its dignity and survival against a U.S.-led Western Goliath that “weaponizes” human rights. In this telling, the government and people, united as one, have achieved social justice, national self-reliance, and ethnic and religious harmony. In fact, Eritrea is a human-rights-abusing geriatric dictatorship dominated by Tigrigna Orthodox Christians that is totally dependent on borrowing from foreigners. The U.S. may not be able to rescue the Eritrean people, or any other people living under totalitarian dictatorships, but by providing accurate information and diverse views, it can empower them by thwarting regime efforts to control perception. Many Eritreans have told American diplomats that our human-rights advocacy has given a voice to the voiceless. That is what American diplomacy should seek to do. To its credit, the Biden administration recognizes this. Speaking in Pretoria on August 8, Secretary of State Blinken stressed the U.S. commitment to work with African “partners to tackle 21st century threats to democracy like misinformation, digital surveillance, [and] weaponized corruption” through diplomatic support, including hosting the African Leaders Summit this December, as well as financial assistance under the bipartisan Global Fragility Act, which provides $200 million annually to promote reform and good governance in conflict-prone areas.

3. Confrontation is necessary and appropriate. Totalitarian systems need to have an enemy; foreign (usually Western) hostility justifies their repression. We should unapologetically but not hostilely counter totalitarian regimes’ efforts to propagate misinformation, legitimize their repression, and misrepresent Western policies. I decided last fall that we had for too long given the Eritrean propaganda machine a free pass. This neglect had normalized the regime’s human-rights abuses and propaganda. We began countering the regime’s disinformation, especially anti-American propaganda emanating from the information minister’s Twitter feed, on our embassy Facebook page. Public diplomacy typically seeks to focus on “positive” stories. In the case of totalitarian regimes, we should not be fearful of disciplined confrontation. In Eritrea, that approach worked.

4.Totalitarian states are inherently destabilizing and should be isolated and containedTotalitarian regimes are cancers in the international body politic. It is in their DNA to metastasize. Eritrea is a regional menace. Its decades of destabilizing belligerence—including the Hanish Islands dispute with Yemen in 1995; interference in the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1996–98; the border war with Ethiopia in 1998–2000; border skirmishes with Djibouti in 2008; and alleged assistance to the terrorist al-Shabaab group in Somalia in the mid-2000s—led to UN sanctions in 2009 and 2011. Eritrea’s current military involvement in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, during which Eritrean forces have reportedly lootedand committed horrific human-rights abuses, including sexual violence, against civilians, has complicated efforts to stop the fighting and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis. We must accept that with totalitarian regimes, aggression is a question of when, not if, and tailor our diplomatic approaches and calculations accordingly. Our current Eritrea policy of sanctions and isolation is a good template for dealing with totalitarian regimes. We may not be able to stop their aggression, but we can try to contain it.

The answer to the question I opened with—why did Eritrea vote “no” on the UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a vote that the information minister, out-Orwelling Orwell, described as “a demonstration of [Eritrea’s] uncompromising stand for peace”?—is that it wanted to punish the U.S. for American sanctions imposed on Eritrea last fall when diplomatic engagement failed to persuade the regime to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia. That this came at the expense of fundamental international principles, contradicted Eritrea’s previous public positions, and confirmed Eritrea’s pariah status appears not to have mattered to the Eritrean leadership. This is another aspect of totalitarian regimes: Many are led by mercurial, paranoid, and grievance-nursing sociopaths. Our expectations of success in engaging with people like this should be modest.

The point I’m trying to make here is that totalitarianism is still with us, and still evil. The assumptions that underpin traditional notions of diplomacy as the collegial resolution of competing interests do not apply to totalitarian states. My time in Eritrea taught me that confrontation, and not compromise, is the best approach when dealing with these kinds of regimes.

From the December 2021 issue: The bad guys are winning

We diplomats like to think that no problem is too big that it can’t be managed by thoughtful engagement and negotiation. Often that approach is the right one. But it won’t work with the Eritreas of the world. We need to be intellectually prepared for the coming challenges of the emerging international dynamics. When someone shows you who they are, Maya Angelou once warned, believe them the first time. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wakes us up to the continuing relevance of the lessons we learned during the Cold War, we would all do well to heed her advice.

Steve Walker is a former chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Asmara, Eritrea.

Totalitarianism Is Still With Us

Wednesday, 07 September 2022 02:39 Written by

https://www.theatlantic.com/

Totalitarianism Is Still With Us

The case of Eritrea shows that totalitarian systems are inherently toxic, and that no amount of “engagement” will change them.                       

By Steve Walker

SEPTEMBER 5, 2022, 6 AM ET

There was only one surprise in the vote tally for a United Nations General Assembly resolution in March condemning Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. As a wholly owned Vladimir Putin subsidiary, Belarus naturally followed instructions from headquarters; Syria’s “no” vote was repayment to the capo dei capi in Moscow for his regime-saving military support; and of course North Korea voted no. But Eritrea? Why would a little country in the Horn of Africa with no significant ties or obligations to Russia choose, at such a highly charged geopolitical moment, to give the finger to established norms of international behavior, in the process incurring irreversible reputational damage while seemingly gaining nothing?

The case of Eritrea is worth considering because, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it reminds us of a lesson the West should not forget as it navigates“post-truth” geopolitics: that totalitarian systems are inherently toxic and by their very nature destabilizing, and that no amount of “engagement” will change them.

I,like all first-time visitors to Eritrea’s capital, was charmed by Asmara when I arrived as the new chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in 2019. The streets are immaculate; thanks to its Art Deco architecture, a living legacy of the Italian colonial period, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the weather is perfect.

But in truth Eritrea is a human-rights house of horrors. Dissent is illegal. There is no independent press. Under compulsory, indefinite national service, citizens are conscripted or assigned to civilian jobs. The country has never held a national election. Eritreans live in a state of perpetual fear: Secret police and informers proliferate; arrests are arbitrary; citizens are routinely detained but not told on what charge, and the lucky ones who are released are given no reason for their freedom and are told to keep silent. Thanks to “revolutionary” economic policies, Eritrea is poor, has no infrastructure to speak of and thus no realistic hope for economic development, and is chronically food insecure. Before the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in northern Ethiopia made cross-border travel impossible, hundreds of Eritreans fled their country every day.

The regime’s desire for total control—“social mobilization” justified by an eternal state of emergency—pervades all sectors of Eritrean society. Citizens wishing to go abroad must get an exit visa; those traveling within the country must have “circulation papers” and produce them for armed soldiers at checkpoints along the way. There are four recognized religions; all other worship is illegal. Eritreans are allowed to withdraw only the equivalent of $330 a month from their bank accounts, and they must do this in person at bank branches because there are no ATMs in Eritrea and online banking does not exist. I wanted to visit a privately owned dairy last spring but was told that this would require a written invitation from the dairy, which then had to be sent to the Ministry of Agriculture for approval, then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would decide whether to issue a travel permit. Evil may be banal, but in Eritrea, it is also ridiculous.

Eritrea didn’t exist when Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former diplomat and political scientist, wrote her classic “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” but the pariah state that today haunts the Horn of Africa confirms her essay’s contention that totalitarian systems are more pernicious than authoritarian ones, ideologically constructed in a way that precludes liberalization, and inevitably destabilizing. I read Kirkpatrick’s essay in graduate school. I forgot its important lessons.

Instead, I recall with not a little embarrassment that I arrived in Asmara eager to “constructively engage” and optimistic that, through hard work and patience, I could improve ties between the U.S. and Eritrea. I was not alone in this newbie enthusiasm: Many a diplomat accredited to Eritrea has arrived brimming with energy and ambition only to depart a few years later frustrated, exhausted, and with little to show in terms of tangible achievements. My time in Eritrea was eventful, encompassing the coronavirus pandemic, the civil-war-like conflict in northern Ethiopia, and a drastic deterioration in our bilateral relationship. The experience was an education in the unique challenges that totalitarian systems pose. As a foreign-policy practitioner, I arrived at a number of conclusions about dealing with totalitarian states that are, in essence, a set of practical diplomatic corollaries to Kirkpatrick’s conceptual framework. (These represent my own views, not necessarily those of the Department of State.)

1: Diplomatic engagement with totalitarian states is futile. The Eritrean regime loves to “engage”—to participate in and publicize talks and meetings that give the impression of openness and reasonability. During these interactions, however, Eritrean officials make clear to their foreign interlocutors that the regime will, as they told one of my colleagues, “compromise on process but not on principles.” In other words, you can “engage” indefinitely, but nothing is going to stop the regime from terrorizing and impoverishing its people, or destabilizing the region. (It has for decades intervened in, or triggered, conflicts and civil wars in neighboring states.) There is a natural tendency among diplomats, in Washington and elsewhere, to favor engagement. This is understandable, but potentially dangerous because engagement, if not carefully calibrated, risks legitimizing totalitarian regimes. The U.S., like-minded countries, and the UN should continue to deal with Eritrea, and even cooperate on issues of mutual interest, but this should be tactical interaction subordinate to a strategic appreciation that the regime is inimical, if not hostile, to our interests and values.

2. We should support oppressed populations by acknowledging their lived reality. Totalitarian regimes aren’t satisfied with political control. They demand the pervasive control that can only come by determining the “truth.” According to the carefully curated narrative propagated by the Ministry of Information, Eritrea is an African David engaged in a righteous fight for its dignity and survival against a U.S.-led Western Goliath that “weaponizes” human rights. In this telling, the government and people, united as one, have achieved social justice, national self-reliance, and ethnic and religious harmony. In fact, Eritrea is a human-rights-abusing geriatric dictatorship dominated by Tigrigna Orthodox Christians that is totally dependent on borrowing from foreigners. The U.S. may not be able to rescue the Eritrean people, or any other people living under totalitarian dictatorships, but by providing accurate information and diverse views, it can empower them by thwarting regime efforts to control perception. Many Eritreans have told American diplomats that our human-rights advocacy has given a voice to the voiceless. That is what American diplomacy should seek to do. To its credit, the Biden administration recognizes this. Speaking in Pretoria on August 8, Secretary of State Blinken stressed the U.S. commitment to work with African “partners to tackle 21st century threats to democracy like misinformation, digital surveillance, [and] weaponized corruption” through diplomatic support, including hosting the African Leaders Summit this December, as well as financial assistance under the bipartisan Global Fragility Act, which provides $200 million annually to promote reform and good governance in conflict-prone areas.

3. Confrontation is necessary and appropriate. Totalitarian systems need to have an enemy; foreign (usually Western) hostility justifies their repression. We should unapologetically but not hostilely counter totalitarian regimes’ efforts to propagate misinformation, legitimize their repression, and misrepresent Western policies. I decided last fall that we had for too long given the Eritrean propaganda machine a free pass. This neglect had normalized the regime’s human-rights abuses and propaganda. We began countering the regime’s disinformation, especially anti-American propaganda emanating from the information minister’s Twitter feed, on our embassy Facebook page. Public diplomacy typically seeks to focus on “positive” stories. In the case of totalitarian regimes, we should not be fearful of disciplined confrontation. In Eritrea, that approach worked.

4. Totalitarian states are inherently destabilizing and should be isolated and containedTotalitarian regimes are cancers in the international body politic. It is in their DNA to metastasize. Eritrea is a regional menace. Its decades of destabilizing belligerence—including the Hanish Islands dispute with Yemen in 1995; interference in the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1996–98; the border war with Ethiopia in 1998–2000; border skirmishes with Djibouti in 2008; and alleged assistance to the terrorist al-Shabaab group in Somalia in the mid-2000s—led to UN sanctions in 2009 and 2011. Eritrea’s current military involvement in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, during which Eritrean forces have reportedly looted and committed horrific human-rights abuses, including sexual violence, against civilians, has complicated efforts to stop the fighting and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis. We must accept that with totalitarian regimes, aggression is a question of when, not if, and tailor our diplomatic approaches and calculations accordingly. Our current Eritrea policy of sanctions and isolation is a good template for dealing with totalitarian regimes. We may not be able to stop their aggression, but we can try to contain it.

The answer to the question I opened with—why did Eritrea vote “no” on the UN resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a vote that the information minister, out-Orwelling Orwell, described as “a demonstration of [Eritrea’s] uncompromising stand for peace”?—is that it wanted to punish the U.S. for American sanctions imposed on Eritrea last fall when diplomatic engagement failed to persuade the regime to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia. That this came at the expense of fundamental international principles, contradicted Eritrea’s previous public positions, and confirmed Eritrea’s pariah status appears not to have mattered to the Eritrean leadership. This is another aspect of totalitarian regimes: Many are led by mercurial, paranoid, and grievance-nursing sociopaths. Our expectations of success in engaging with people like this should be modest.

The point I’m trying to make here is that totalitarianism is still with us, and still evil. The assumptions that underpin traditional notions of diplomacy as the collegial resolution of competing interests do not apply to totalitarian states. My time in Eritrea taught me that confrontation, and not compromise, is the best approach when dealing with these kinds of regimes.

We diplomats like to think that no problem is too big that it can’t be managed by thoughtful engagement and negotiation. Often that approach is the right one. But it won’t work with the Eritreas of the world. We need to be intellectually prepared for the coming challenges of the emerging international dynamics. When someone shows you who they are, Maya Angelou once warned, believe them the first time. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine wakes us up to the continuing relevance of the lessons we learned during the Cold War, we would all do well to heed her advice.

Steve Walker is a former chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Asmara, Eritrea.

Source: Totalitarianism Is Still With Us, and Still Evil - The Atlantic

Source: EEPA

Admin, 1 September 2022

In the last month, the long arm of the Eritrean regime has organised a series of ‘festivals’ and ‘seminars’ promoted as cultural events. On the basis of previous events that have been organised many perceive that the events promote hate speech and incite violence. They have fuelled pushback in the form of protests, legal action and letters from Eritreans in the diaspora and allies opposing the violent message of the Eritrean regime. A new festival was organised in secrecy in Switzerland last weekend, 27 August 2022, and another event was announced in Germany on 3 September – of which the cancellation was announced yesterday, 31 August.

The festivals are organised by representatives (including embassies) of the ruling and only party in Eritrea, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and its youth-wing, YPFDJ. It is the political organisation that controls Eritrea and has a granular presence abroad to control the Eritrean diaspora. It is referred to as HEGDEF or HGDEF by members of the Eritrean diaspora, or Shabia, mostly used to refer to its presence in Eritrea.

The tour of festivals comes as the Tigray region of Ethiopia has been under siege for 22 months. Eritrea is seen as an important actor in the conflict. This causes additional tensions around these events, including in the Tigray diaspora.

Hate speech and violent symbolism

Central to the tour of events organised by the PFDJ is Awel Seid, presented as a songwriter and poet. In his videos and texts, diasporas from Eritrea and Tigray indicate that he glorifies war and violence, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He praises the Eritrean military, shows graphic images of civilian killings [4.50 minute mark] and dehumanises Tigrayans, endorsing Eritrea’s invasion of Tigray. These examples are experienced as hate speech.

On a festival held in Switzerland on 23 July 2022, men can be seen dancing in the audience and on stage in military outfits, holding Kalashnikovs [for example around the 3:11:45 mark]. In addition, the video shows that money is collected during the festival. According to Eritrean regime-controlled media Shabait, the festival also included some words from officials: “Ms. Asmeret Abraha [Governor of the Northern Red Sea Region] also gave extensive briefing on the objective situation in the homeland, future programs as well as regional developments.” In addition, Adm Osman, Charge d’Affairs at the Eritrean Embassy in Switzerland, led the festival. The men holding – if not real then very realistic – Kalashnikovs was of no apparent concern to the Charge d’Affairs nor others, including the very present security.

Push-backs from diaspora, human rights activists and allies

For the persons that fled from Eritrea’s military service and the repressions of the regime, the festivals are seen as propaganda events and are a symbol of the continuation of the repression they fled from. Pushback against the festivals has been accompanied by direct threats of regime supports to protesters and other experts and activists coming to their support. This includes threats to family members back home in Eritrea.

Letters warning of the danger

A letter by a concerned group of experts outlined that the festival announced in Germany on 20 August is directly tied to repression faced by Eritrean refugees that have fled the country. Furthermore, warn the experts, the funds collected in the festivals and others like it may well go on to fund the Eritrean military invasion of Tigray.

The Eritrean diaspora petitioned the court to stop the festival organised in Germany on 20 August 2022. The German court, however, allowed the event to continue on the basis of protecting freedom of expression. Thus, a protest was organised at the event – which turned violent. Finally, the event was called off by the police in light of the danger of further escalation. Although a new festival was announced for 3 September, this was also cancelled just a few days before it was set to take place.

Peaceful protests

In Switzerland, the Eritrean diaspora peacefully protested a festival announced to take place on 27 August 2022. The protests were accompanied by petitions and a letter that organised peaceful protests and solidarity. The peaceful protests took place across several cities, as the location of the venue of the event was kept secret. Buses were organised to take those registered by phone to an undisclosed location. Neither Swiss authorities nor the diaspora knew where it took place – if it took place at all.

Festivals and seminars cancelled

Before the cancellation of the event in Germany on 27 August due to violence, other countries have cancelled the festivals before they took place. The municipality of Rijswijk in the Netherlands decided to cancel the event as they had not asked for permission. The municipality, in deliberation with the police, also found that the appropriate safety measures had not been taken. The festival was moved last-minute to Beverwijk, another municipality in the Netherlands, but the municipality was granted an emergency ordinance to stop it.

An event set for 3 September 2022 in Norway was also cancelled. Authorities in Norway are investigating people that participate in these festivals. 150 Eritrean refugees that attended a similar festival celebrating the Eritrean national service in August 2019 were investigated. This resulted in the withdrawal of 13 residence permits.

Another event planned in the UK on 4 September was also cancelled.

Experts indicate that the festivals link to the widespread Eritrean diaspora’s wish to celebrate their culture, music and community. However, in doing so, the festivals also serve as a tool for the Eritrean regime to establish itself financially, organise propaganda and promote perceived hate speech against Eritrean opposition and Tigrayans, they indicated. This argumentation can be seen at the core of the pushback against such events.

The Eritrean regime organizes controversial propaganda events in Switzerland. The opposition is trying to prevent this, the police are alarmed. 

Source: NZZ Magazine

By George Humbel08/27/2022, 9:45 p.m
PFDJ Festival Valais Switzerland

The whole thing doesn’t look like a peaceful cultural festival. A band is playing on stage. But the dancers next to the musicians are wearing battle gear. The two men in army uniforms wield rather real-looking submachine guns. They clench their fists again and again and hold their Kalashnikovs in the air in a victory pose. There is a tent next to the stage, also here people in uniform. They praise the struggle of the Eritrean military and call for donations for the “martyrs”.

These pictures were not taken on the Horn of Africa – but this summer in a multi-purpose hall in Conthey near Sitten in Valais. The whole thing was actually camouflaged as a cultural festival. But in fact it was a propaganda event by supporters of the Eritrean regime. Several senior officials were flown in as guests of honor. The Eritrean ambassador acted as the host. You can see all of this on a YouTube video.

What is made public afterwards is top secret in advance. This also applies to the event that was supposed to take place yesterday, Saturday. The fear of riots at the festival is too great, too great the fear that the authorities could ban such events.

And rightly so: there are regular riots and police operations. The Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) writes: The past has shown “that there is a certain potential for violence and riots are possible”.

It is an expression of the deep ditch that the diaspora goes through. It is mainly Eritreans who fled in the 1980s who are still ardent supporters of the founder of the state, Isaias Afewerki. To this older generation, he is a freedom hero who fought for the country’s independence. It doesn’t matter to them that elections have never taken place and that the human rights situation is miserable.

Those who fled the Afewerkis regime in the 2000s see things very differently. They have experienced oppression and poverty in the supposed paradise themselves and are fighting against the government.

So did Habteab Yemane. He left the country in 2016. The former law lecturer and judge now lives in Switzerland as a recognized refugee. It is a slap in the face for him and his comrades-in-arms that the dictator’s supporters can hold such events. “This is an abuse of freedom of speech and assembly,” he says. The opposition leader’s phone has been ringing every minute for the past few days.

Playing cat and mouse

Only a few knew where this Saturday’s event was to take place. Eritreans loyal to the regime and presumably the Eritrean ambassador to Switzerland Adem Osman organized it. The regime holds such festivals every summer. Selected artists tour Western Europe. They play in Stockholm, London, Bologna – everywhere where there are many Eritreans who have fled.

Yemane and his comrades tried to prevent the festival. They spoke to the police, they wrote a letter to Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter, and they started a petition. They threatened to demonstrate on site if the event did take place. “Peaceful,” as Yemane emphasizes.

The venue of the event was kept secret until the last minute. On Saturday, buses were waiting for the participants at the meeting points. Only those who had registered were allowed to board.

But the authorities and the opposition have had their hands tied in recent days. If only because the venue of the event remained secret until the last minute. The organizers acted clandestinely. On Saturday, buses were waiting for the participants at collection points. As stated on previously distributed flyers, admission was limited: Only those who had registered by telephone were allowed to board. The Eritreans, who are loyal to the regime, wanted to prevent the opposition from disrupting the event.

The example of Giessen in Germany shows how tense the mood within the diaspora is. A big event was supposed to take place in the Hessian city a week ago. It ended with an outbreak of violence: members of the opposition tried to storm the hall. More than 200 people fought a mass brawl. The opponents attacked each other with iron bars, in the midst of an overwhelmed police force. 33 people, including seven police officers, were injured. The incident made headlines across Germany.

The Netherlands is also a key stop on the Eritrean regime’s annual propaganda tour. But the country banned the event this summer. The authorities feared calls for violence and raised security concerns.

In Switzerland, both sides have been playing a cat-and-mouse game in the past few days. Yemane spent nights in front of the screen, searching social media for clues to the venue. Comrades-in-arms reported constantly with rumours. His cell phone kept beeping. New rumour, denials, another new rumour, another denial. It went like that for hours.

The conference of cantonal justice and police directors (KKJPD) also followed the developments. “We have informed our members and the police corps that such an event is planned,” said General Secretary Florian Düblin.

Foreign exchange for Asmara

The Dutch professor Mirjam van Reisen is a proven Eritrea expert. She says these festivals are the “long arm of Afewerkis” in the West. The collected donations are a source of foreign currency for the isolated regime. In addition to the donations, the country also lives from the diaspora tax. All Eritreans living abroad are obliged to pay two percent of their income to the state.

This is encouraged at the festivals. “These are definitely not cultural events,” says van Reisen. She is in favor of a ban like the Netherlands has enacted. In addition to the money, Asmara is primarily concerned with showing the strength and influence of the regime. The choice of artists is also highly political.

The poet Awel Said was announced for the event on Saturday in Switzerland. He is considered the chief propagandist and likes to show himself together with the head of state Afewerki. His speeches are tirades delivered in aggressive staccato against all supposed opponents of the regime. Said rails against the West, against the USA and the people of the Tigray.

The Eritrean army is waging war against so-called Tigray rebels in neighboring Ethiopia. Awel Said glorifies this war and calls the Tigray an inferior people. According to van Reisen, this war is also the reason for the extremely heated atmosphere on both sides.

Last week, NZZ Magazin tried several times in writing and by telephone to contact the Eritrean mission in Geneva. This was not available and did not answer any inquiries.

Waiting and staring at the phone, drinking coffee. Even on Saturday evening, Yemane and his comrades-in-arms didn’t know the venue. A demo on site was impossible. Instead, they gathered in Bern, Geneva and Zurich for small silent marches.

The secrecy tactics of the supporters loyal to the regime paid off this weekend.

The secrecy tactics of the supporters loyal to the regime paid off this weekend. Or the event didn’t take place after all. The opposition suspects that the event was ultimately held on a smaller scale on private property. Maybe you will see it later on social networks. The pro-regime movement has its own media service that produces images and videos.

The embassy is also busy filming and taking photos. Some of these images are broadcast on Eritrean TV. The state news agency also reports on the festivals. In this way, the regime wants to show its own population how much Isaias Afewerki is celebrated abroad.

Visit from Asmara: State secretaries receive Eritrea’s number two

It was a discreet but top-class meeting: As research shows, the Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab was in Bern on October 18, 2021. Gebreab is considered the closest associate of the Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki and the second most powerful man in Eritrea.

It was a “polite visit”, writes the foreign department EDA on request. The meeting was suggested by the Eritrean side. According to information from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Advisor’s reception lasted half an hour and took place in a meeting room of the FDFA. However, the Swiss delegation was important for such a short courtesy visit: Livia Leu and the then head of migration Mario Gattiker, two state secretaries took time for the guest from Eritrea.

The Swiss Refugee Aid (SFH) sharply criticizes the visit: “From the point of view of the SFH, it is incomprehensible that the reception took place at a time when Eritrean troops were deployed in the Tigray region.” A civil war has been raging in neighboring Ethiopia since 2020. Eritrean troops repeatedly take part in the fighting. According to the refugee agency, the Eritrean soldiers are accused of war crimes and alleged crimes against humanity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs countered the criticism. Such contacts would allow important points to be raised. State Secretary Leu “urgently” called for compliance with international humanitarian law. In addition to the war, the meeting also dealt with the issue of migration.

Eritreans were for years the largest group of asylum seekers in Switzerland, tens of thousands of Eritreans are currently living here. The regime does not accept returns of rejected asylum seekers. That is why bourgeois politicians have been calling for negotiations with the East African country for years.

“A solution is needed in the area of ​​migration policy,” says Central National Councilor Marco Romano. The situation has been blocked for over ten years, he criticizes. “We have a huge diaspora in Switzerland and should therefore remain in contact with the regime,” says FDP National Councilor Andri Silberschmidt. “Unfortunately, not all countries are democracies. However, if a dialogue gives the prospect of improving the status quo, it is preferable to breaking off contact.”

NZZ am Sonntag, Switzerland

The Central Council of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) held three meetings of its 4th regular meeting on 14th,15th, and 20th of August 2022. It deeply discussed and passed resolutions on various important issues taking its huge responsibility into consideration as the meeting was convened under a sensitive situation of rapid political changes taking place in our region. The meeting started with an introductory speech delivered by the Party chairman, Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga), followed by the adoption of the agenda for the Central Council meeting.

First on the agenda was discussion on the draft report of the executive committee that had been sent to the Council members earlier. The Council also heard the annual financial and asset report submitted by the Party’s General Auditor and held discussion on that as well. The council then endorsed all the reports after making some improvements and passed resolution on important points that need to be accomplished in the future. One of the focal points that the Council passed resolution on is concerning the enhancement of the Party’s internal capacity with emphasis on the full participation of the party members in the preparation for the 4th Party Congress due to take place next year.

At winding up the discussion on the reports, the CC elected a committee that presided over the rest of the meeting under whose leadership it discussed and passed the following important resolutions.

  1. On the Unified Action of the Opposition Camp

Understanding the importance of Unity and unified action, the Council carried out an intensive evaluation based on pertinent decisions made in the past regular and extraordinary meetings. In this discussion, the council recalled the four-point proposal of June 2017 for joint work in the opposition camp and testified that the party leadership and grassroots worked with full commitment for over two years to see to it that Eritrean Pollical Forces (EPF) becomes a force to be reckoned with. However, although the desired goals were not fully achieved, the efforts by all concerned did not remain futile. In fact, the Council noted that a positive experience has been achieved in bringing the political forces close to one another and in enabling them endorse documents of mutual importance.

 Furthermore, the Council reiterated that there is no alternative to unified action in the strive for uprooting the PFDJ and in fulfilling the Eritrean peoples’ aspirations and that it will continue to do everything it can to create a broad-based forum that can encompass all political forces, popular movements, and individual Eritreans in their collective effort for change. The annual 4th CC session also decided that EPDP’s participation in the unified action will be realized in a way that will not adversely affect the empowering and enhancing of the Party’s internal capacity. As the struggle for a unified action is not a task to be left for a certain side but an obligation that must be met by every force for change, the Council has urged every one of them to effectively play their part.

  1. On Current Regional developments and Relations

The other issue that the Council discussed in depth was the political dynamism and alliance of forces taking place in the region that directly impact the Eritrean situation. On the one hand, the Council has taken note (till August 20) of the slowing down of the war in Tigray and saw the window of hope for a peaceful solution; while on the one hand, it has understood that the PFDJ regime has become an obstacle to the peace process in Ethiopia and defiant to accept the international community’s call for its withdrawal from Ethiopia.

With the recent reduction in war damage and the resumption of limited Humanitarian aid to Tigray, The EPDP CC has seen the validation of its stand since day one. The party’s position remained that war was not an alternative to peaceful means to resolve the difference between the Ethiopian Federal government and the regional state of Tigray. Likewise, EPDP’s firm condemnation of the intervention of Eritrean Regime in the war and the damage it inflicted upon the people and the property in the war zone and the siege that ensued has all passed the test of time.

Based on its policy decisions, the Council has once again renewed its long-held position and fraternal relationship between Eritrea and Tigray, and they must continue in a way that safeguards peace and interests of both peoples, and that EPDP will implement its decisions with all its capacity, always with the central objective of defending Eritrea’s sovereign statehood.  

  Needless to say, the CC reiterated its commendation of the TPLF-led Tigray Reginal government for its clear support of Eritrean sovereignty at various occasions. On the hand, the Council called on certain individuals, groups, and some private media outlets to refrain from propagating against Eritrean people’s unity and the sovereignty of the country as this will not benefit both sides. sovereignty as this will not benefit both people. The EPDP thus urged the TPLF-led regional government to play its part in silencing such negative forces.

CC discussions at the 4th session meetings were not limited on Ethiopia/Tigray relations but also assessed PFDJ’s unwarranted interferences in the internal affairs of the Sudan and other neighboring countries acknowledging that this is against Eritrea’s interest and peace and that the council would closely follow up such negative developments.

In addition to meddling in the neighborhood, Eritrea’s PFDJ is currently putting our country in another black page in history by allying with invaders. The PFDJ supported Russia in its invasion of Ukrainian sovereignty and has also sided with China with regards to its plan to annex Taiwan. Considering the consequences of such precedents in current world order, the EPDP Central Council meeting unequivocally denounced these Eritrean regime actions.

  1. Eritrean Refugees

The meeting discussed about the hardships that Eritrean refugees face in all corners of the world with special focus on the problems that they have encountered following the Tigray war. The Central council has discussed about those refugees suffering in all towns pursuant to the war in Tigray with particular emphasis on the life-threatening situation that the refugees are going through in the new camp located in a place called Alemwacha in the vicinity of Dabat/Gonder. The EPDP Central Council has also expressed its deep concerns on the conditions of Eritrean refugees in the Sudan as some of them are being randomly arrested and jailed and being forced to pay huge amount of money that they cannot afford.

The Central Council urges all governments hosting the Eritrean refugees who are constantly asking for help and calls on all other concerned international organizations to give due attention to these refugees.

  1. PFDJ Festivals

The Central Council meeting commended all Eritrean forces of change particularly the Eritrean youth for their activities against all PFDJ movements especially for their struggle to foil PFDJ festivals that were organized to collect illegal funds and to disseminate hate propaganda. The meeting commended all those who took part in delaying the recent PFDJ festivals in Sweden and Texas from going as planned and canceling the festival in Holland while at the same time encourages them to enhance their struggle.

The Central Council meeting democratically elected a nine-member executive committee and an auditor who will be leading the party for the next one year as per the party’s constitution article 6.1.15.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Council expressed its gratitude to its members and other supporters for the material and moral support they have been rendering to the party and requested them to elevate their support for the overall success of the party’s principles and that of its upcoming fourth Congress. It has also called upon the Eritrean people to relentlessly raise their struggle for Liberation and peace.

We strive for Constitutional governance, Democracy and Development.

 

Martin Plaut

Aug 24

 

Reuters

· 

NAIROBI, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Fighting between forces from Ethiopia's rebellious northern region of Tigray and forces loyal to the central government has erupted around the town of Kobo, a resident and the spokesman for the Tigrayan forces said on Wednesday.

"I am hearing sound of heavy weapons starting from this morning," said a farmer in the Kobo area who did not wish to be named. "Last week, I saw Amhara special forces and Fano (militia) heading to the front by bus."

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu, military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane and the prime minister's spokeswoman Billene Seyoum did not respond to requests for comment.

News: Ethiopia Army issues warning calling for immediate stop to “unverified, unnecessary information and rumors” on its current affairs

Source: Addis Standard

AUGUST 23, 2022

·   

Addis Abeba – In a statement it issued today, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) strongly warned and called for the immediate cessation on reporting “our army’s current affairs” using “unverified, unnecessary information and rumors.”

The army said that it firmly believes that the strength of the support and participation of the Ethiopian people to the Defense Forces are critical to effectively discharge the army’s mandate to protect the country’s sovereignty. Since the trust and mutual support built by our people and our army is standing on a firm foundation, we have been protecting the unity and sovereignty of our country while going through challenges together,” the statement said, adding “in the future, we will continue to show practically that we are invincible [in the face of] the nefarious conspiracies and plots and traps that our enemies set for us.”

The army said tat the recent infiltration by the Al-Shabaab militants through the eastern part of Ethiopia “with the intention of creating a clear danger, have been destroyed.” Similarly, “in the northern part of our country, the terrorist group TPLF is beating the drums of war,” the army said, accusing the party’s spokespersons of “defaming our army in their recent sermons. It is an open secret that they are running a campaign of blaming our defense forces on untenable excuses,” the statement said.

The army also accused Tigrayan authorities of using the international media to echo “their pre-conflict cries” saying “the peace negotiation has broken down” and accusing the army of attacking with heavy weapons which is known to “the chain of command from top to bottom…” among others.

“We have noticed that some social media reports and information are accepting the same pessimistic accusations…just as we noticed that the media of our country are aware of the enemy’s plot and agenda and challenge it.”

Furthermore, the army also warned that “reporting on the activities of the enemy without enough information will disrupt the daily lives of our people.” And blamed those that are reporting on the military activities regarding the existence of war in the country was being taken as income generation means on social media. It warned that such reporting also undermine the security forces.

The army has been making public information on its current situation and activities when it becomes necessary, the statement said and added that it will be done in the same way in the future. “At this time when our army stands ready to resist any attack with determination and caution…we have noticed that there are irresponsible elements who are trapped in the propaganda of the enemy, echoing negative information and spreading the activities of our army through various means of communication. This action cannot have any negative effect on the performance of our army.”

Therefore, the army said it strongly urges social media entities that report on such unbalanced activities “knowingly or unknowingly to refrain from their actions.”

It further warned that legal actions will be taken against “those who continue this act carelessly… or stand not corrected” and the army “will be forced to hold accountable and as necessary bring criminal charges” against those “who endanger the security of the country by spreading the secrets of the army”, and “fanning the enemy’s agenda.” AS

From: Collective of the Eritrean Community in Switzerland Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To: Conference of Cantonal Directors for Justice and Police (KKJPD) Haus der Kantone

Speichergasse 6, P.O. Box CH-3001 Berne

Bern, 22 August 2022

Subject: Planned propaganda event of the Eritrean regime in Switzerland Honourable members of the Conference of Directors for Justice and Police

Honourable members of the Conference of Directors for Justice and Police.

By this letter, we would like to draw your attention to the so-called “Eritrea Festival”, which is being organised every summer under the guise of a “cultural event” at the behest of the Eritrean regime not only in Switzerland, but in numerous other European countries as well.

By organising concerts with musicians who enjoy a certain degree of fame among the Eritrean public, the regime of President Isaias Afewerki manages to attract the members of the diaspora; the main aim is, however, to be able to spread its political messages of war and hatred. Anti-Western and, more recently, pro-Russian propaganda are also part of the repertoire of the various speakers, who include not only high-ranking representatives of the YPFDJ, but also members of President Isaias Afewerki’s cabinet. In 2018, for example, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh incited government supporters with anti-Western propaganda.[1]

It is well known that the regime in Eritrea is involved in the current war in northern Ethiopia. Thus, this year’s festivals serve mainly to glorify the war, to justify it and also to support it financially. Hate speeches, war slogans and racist songs against the people of Tigray thus form the main programme of this year’s events. This was clearly heard at a YPFDJ event in Sion on 23.07.2022, which was also attended by children and minors. The “main attraction” this summer is a music group of the Eritrean Defence Force, consisting of musicians, poets and political cadres. They not only boast about their victory over the arch-enemy Tigray, but also sow hatred against Eritrean opposition members as well as members of the Tigrayan ethnic group during their performances.

Another event in Switzerland is now planned for 27 August 2022, but the venue is being kept secret until now.

For years now, the organisation of such propaganda events has been heavily criticised by the Eritrean opposition, but also by informed politicians in the host countries; this year, this could be observed in Sweden.[2]  In the Netherlands, the planned festival in Reijkswijk was banned altogether after the Foundation for Human Rights for Eritreans successfully sued against it.[3]

In the afternoon and evening of 20 August 2022, massive riots broke out between angry regime opponents and government supporters in the German city of Giessen. The violent protests eventually led to the event being cancelled after a complaint against it had previously been dismissed.[4] [5]

The anger and frustration of the regime opponents is all too understandable. Many Eritreans living in Switzerland today as recognised refugees or asylum seekers fled their country of origin due to massive human rights violations and repressive state measures. The regime and its agents in the diaspora regularly try to defame these political refugees as economic migrants, ridicule the families of those who have died during the perilious flight, and downplay the true motives of people fleeing Eritrea (first and foremost, the unlimited military and national service, which violates basic human rights).

Since November 2020, the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) has been involved in a cruel war against insurgents in northern Ethiopia alongside the Ethiopian federal government; as is so often the case, the victims are civilians, including the elderly, women and children, but also numerous Eritrean refugees who had sought shelter in UNHCR camps.[6] To date, the hostilities have not been resolved, and the Tigray region has been cut off from urgently needed financial, medical and humanitarian aid for months now, leading to famine.[7]  The abuses perpetrated against civilians during the fighting, involving Eritrean troops at the order of the government in Asmara, are so atrocious that the UN and the EU are calling them war crimes, ethnically motivated displacements, women-related violence on an unimaginable scale, and potentially crimes against humanity. Several Eritrean army generals, including EDF leader Filippos, were sanctioned by the US in August 2021 as a result of these human rights’ violations.[8] A UN resolution of 17 December 2021 accuses “all parties” in the war – i.e. also the Eritrean Defence Force – of the most serious crimes.[9]

But also the people of Eritrea are suffering heavily under the war in Tigray. Many young men and women (including many minors) are being forcibly recruited for the war during raids, overpriced food is becoming unaffordable, there is a lack of electricity and water in every household. Yet the regime presents itself as the winner of the war and deceives people through propaganda and incitement against the West.

We representatives of the Eritrean community in Switzerland fear violent clashes in the wake of these propaganda events, even more so in light of the problems described above, remembering that violent clashes in Schwarzenburg could only be prevented narrowly in 2017.[10]  Switzerland has offered protection from persecution to many Eritrean refugees; we therefore consider it our responsibility to draw your attention to the anti-constitutional activities of PFDJ-associated organisations. The dictatorship’s long arm reaches into Europe and thus also into Switzerland. These who refuse to be loyal to this regime must expect that family members still living in the country of origin will be subjected to reprisals by the regime (threats, expropriation of land, withholding of food coupons that are essential for survival, etc.).

These so-called “festivals”, organised by the regime every summer in the various countries with a large diaspora, aim at marking presence and thus at silencing dissenting voices.

We have had enough of this now! We demand that Eritrean refugees can live a free and safe life here in the host country without being intimidated and blackmailed by the agents of the regime they fled from.

We therefore appeal to you,

  1. to ban this year’s festival by the Eritrean regime planned for 27 August; if members of the current Eritrean government or military, who are presently under sanctions, attempt to enter the country, this must be prevented under all circumstances.
  2. In addition, we want the Swiss authorities to finally take adequate measures to put a ban on the other activities of the Eritrean YPFDJ groups once and for good.
  3. Finally, we want all activities that favour the collection of the so-called diaspora tax,[11] namely the provision of consular services only against the 2% tax, the signing of the so-called “repentance form” and the disclosure of the whereabouts of all family members, to finally be effectively stopped.

It cannot be the case that constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms such as the right to freedom of assembly and expression are abused by a dictatorial regime in Switzerland; Switzerland should neither serve as a propaganda target nor a collection point for illegal taxes to the Eritrean regime!

The Eritrean government is not only disregarding the basic human rights of its own population, but it is also overrunning the civilian population of a neighbouring country with a genocidal war that is in violation of international law. This war has already claimed thousands of lives and has displaced millions more.

We thank you in advance and we count on you to take the necessary measures. Should you require further information and evidence, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely

On behalf of the network of eritrean “Justice Seekers” in Switzerland

Copies will be sent to

  • the State Secretary for Migration
  • the Minister of Justice

There is a petition appealing for support for this action: See here: https://act.campax.org/petitions/keine-feier-fur-eritreisches-unrechts-regime-in-der-schweiz

[1] https://www.srf.ch/news/schweiz/eklat-um-ministerbesuch-eritrea-brueskiert-die-schweiz

[2] https://eritreahub.org/eritreas-ruling-partys-stockholm-festival-plans-terminated-how-it-was-done

[3] https://eritreahub.org/breaking-dutch-court-rejects-appeal-against-ban-on-pfdj-festival-this-weekend

[4] [4] https://www.hessenschau.de/panorama/angriffe-mit-messern-und-eisenstangen-demo-gegen-eritrea-festival-eskaliert,verletzte-auseinandersetzung-eritrea-festival-giessen-100.html

[5] https://www.t-online.de/region/frankfurt-am-main/id_100041910/giessen-kontroverses-festival-mit-eisenstangen-und-steinen-angegriffen.html

[6] https://eritreahub.org/nowhere-to-run-the-plight-of-eritrean-refugees-in-ethiopia

[7] https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/aethiopien-haelfte-der-schwangeren-in-tigray-region-ist-laut-uno-unterernaehrt-a-09e30819-5d53-4c94-ac7b-7093df280ad9

[8] https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0329

[9] https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2021/12/human-rights-council-decides-establish-international-commission-human-rights

[10] ttps://www.bernerzeitung.ch/weltpolitik-in-schwarzenburg-421758929327

[11] https://www.dsp-groep.eu/projecten/the-2-pct-tax-for-eritreans-in-the-diaspora/

The Eritrean government’s attempt to hold a festival in Giessen ended in chaos, after protests from young Eritreans, furious that the event was celebrating a regime they had risked their lives to flee from.

Opposition to the festival organised by the ruling PFDJ had been building for weeks, with a petition calling for it to be cancelled.

The Eritrean opposition took the issue to court, but were unable to persuade the authorities to have the event called off, despite pointing out that it would involve “hate speech” against members of the community.

And so the event went ahead on Saturday. But not without challenge.

Eritrean youth were determined to resist what they saw as a celebration of the Eritrean dictatorship which had forced them to risk their lives to flee their own country.

What began as a peaceful protest outside the festival site

grew in size and intensity, as other opposition groups joined them.

Clashes broke out, and police from across the region were called [see below] as they feared the events would get out of control and there could be serious injuries.

Finally, the PFDJ gave in.

The organisers told the festival goers that they had been instructed to halt the event by the police.

They said the protesters outnumber the police’s capacity to protect the event and that the police were unable to take responsibility for the festival’s safety.

This caused considerable grumbling from the PFDJ supporters, who can be heard on the Facebook video  saying they had came all the way from Holland for the festival.


Source: Police press release

Gießen: The police accompanied two events in Gießen today (08/20/2022). In addition to an Eritrea cultural festival in the Hessenhallen, a meeting with rallies and a procession, which was thematically directed against this cultural event, was registered with the city of Giessen.

Around 5 p.m., a larger number of participants left this gathering. They climbed over the fence of the Hessenhallen and attacked the helpers who were there setting up the festival. According to initial findings, the attackers used sticks, iron bars and knives. Police forces deployed there were stoned – the forces used batons and pepper spray against the attackers. A hitherto unknown number of people and police forces suffered minor and sometimes serious injuries.

Rescue workers took over their first aid.

Police forces from the police headquarters in Central Hesse, Frankfurt am Main, North Hesse, East Hesse, South-East Hesse and South Hesse as well as the Hessian riot police were brought together in Gießen.

The forces arrested several people provisionally.

The culture festival was canceled by police order.

Guido Rehr, spokesman

Questions please contact:

Central Hesse Police Headquarters
Press and Public Relations
Ferniestraße 8
35394 Gießen
Telephone: 0641-7006 2040
Fax: 0611-327663040


Source: FFH Radio

Large-scale police operation in Gießen in the evening. In the run-up to the Eritrea culture festival, there were massive riots.

The attackers were participants in a meeting against the culture festival, the Gießen police said. Accordingly, a larger protest group climbed over the fence to the Hessenhallen and attacked helpers who were busy setting up the festival. Iron rods and knives were apparently also used. Police officers deployed there had stones thrown at them. They responded by using batons and pepper spray.

Several injured

In addition to the festival helpers, a few police officers were also slightly injured. There is currently no overview of how many people were injured. The police speak of an unknown number of mostly slightly injured people.

Police needed massive reinforcements

Police forces from the police headquarters in Central Hesse, Frankfurt am Main, North Hesse, East Hesse, South-East Hesse and South Hesse as well as the Hessian riot police were brought together in Gießen. The forces arrested several people provisionally. They were later released, but investigations are now underway into allegations of breach of the peace and assault.

Festival has been controversial for years

The culture festival was canceled by police order, and the counter-demonstration was ended by the organizer after the incident. There are regular protests because of the festival. Critics see it as a propaganda event for the dictatorial state.

Event by the Eritrean (Young) People’s Front for Democracy and Justice glorifying violence and hatred cancelled in Rijswijk

Source: EEPA

11 August 2022

A ‘cultural’ event organised by the long arm of the Eritrean regime, the (Y)PFDJ, had been organised at the Event Plaza in Rijswijk, the Netherlands for 13 August 2022.

The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and its youth-wing, YPFDJ, is the political organisation that controls Eritrea and has a granular presence abroad to control the Eritrean diaspora. It is referred to as HEGDEF or HGDEF by members of the Eritrean diaspora, or Shabia, mostly used to refer to its presence in Eritrea.

Many organisations, including the Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans, have urgently asked the PFDJ, Event Plaza and the municipality of Rijswijk that the event be cancelled.

The ‘cultural’ events, organised by an organisation that is understood to be associated with the (Y)PFDJ, are regular events in which the diaspora is invited and expected to participate.

An event to glorify violence and hate against the people of Tigray

Members of the Eritrean community report that during these events the long arm of the regime collects intelligence of who is loyal to the regime and who is not. It is also reported that funds collected from the diaspora at such events are used to support the regime.

It is alleged that the funds collected at the event could or would be used to contribute to the war efforts in the region, especially against the regional state of Tigray in Ethiopia. According to a leaked copy of a zoom meeting it is known that a representative of the Eritrean regime and events organiser, Mr. Sirak Bahlbi, encouraged Eritreans in the diaspora to engage in fundraising activities to support the ongoing war in Northern Ethiopia:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKGuhfaC3t0 (January 4, 2022, 25th minute mark).

The “cultural” aspect of the event is seen by members of the Eritrean and Tigray community as the front of a message of hate, especially against the people of Tigray, and a glorification of violence.

The conference poster for the event, shows the Eritrean singer Awel Seid. The poster shows the well known singer from Eritrea in military uniform and with the Eritrean national flag. The way the Eritrean and Tigray community understand his lyrics is that these dehumanise Tigrayans, incite hatred and glorify military action in the region and especially against Tigray.

The Tigray region, which neighbours Eritrea and is a regional state of the federal state of Ethiopia, was invaded by Eritrea in November 2020.

The forced indefinite national service, also qualified as ‘slavery’, was providing the main capacity for the invasion of Tigray by Eritrea in 2020.

Texts of Awel Seid are expressed in poems and speeches. In a description of his declamations he is described as:

The last, Awel Seid, sounds to me like the voice of a judge, from a medieval era. A judge reading, in a booming voice, the counts against HISTORY and ordering history, with hand gestures, to comply with the PFDJ NARRATIVE pronto, as was foretold in days of old (“Awet nHafash!“) Resistance is futile, and compliance is inevitable, so sooner is better than later, is always Awel’s judgement. The PFDJ NARRATIVE is the ERITREAN NARRATIVE, and dissent is just another word for treason. There are a rotating cast of characters in the Enemies of the State gallery who populate his videos, and in the most recent edition, I showed up. (Saay Storm, Enter the Judge, Exit the Veterans. Eritrean Digest. 3 January 2022, https://www.eritreadigest.com/enter-the-judge-exit-the-veterans/).

The tone of his messages support the Eritrean regime’s invasion of Tigray, with implicit messaging, since the Eritrean authorities long denied the invasion in Tigray:

Awel Said, the new voice of Eritrea’s Indignation At The World, has only one voice: triumphant bitterness. What exactly will kids approach Awel Said with?  Fist raising? Will they just exchange knowing smiles about a victory,  specifically Tribe of Eritrea’s triumph over the Tribe of Tigray but they have to do it in hush tones since the Tribe of Eritrea, officially, never fought in Tigray? (Saay Storm, Enter the Judge, Exit the Veterans. Eritrean Digest. 3 January 2022, https://www.eritreadigest.com/enter-the-judge-exit-the-veterans/).

According to the diasporas from Eritrea and Tigray, messages of Awel Seid glorify violence and they are full of allusion to the Russian invasion in Ukraine, serving as a justification for the invasion by Eritrea in Tigray. A listing of interpretations of Awel Seid’s messages includes the following:

  • Endorsement of violence, war, hate, aggression, invasion, a language of dehumanisation, etc are the hallmarks of his songs and poems:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKSNe-6YYwc
  • In one clip he empathetically supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine and praises the regime’s alliance with Russia including its vote at the UN Council (start at 28:00 min mark). Mr. Seid’s visit to Scandinavian countries must also be seen as an extension and endorsement of the regime’s geopolitical alignment with Russia. This must be seen in the context of propagating Russian propaganda within the Swedish community of Eritrean descent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej1hqhWx4LM
  • In a video he shows no regard to human decency, and he approves civilian killings including by using very graphic images (4:50 minute mark). He vehemently romanticised war and violence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfwXZPKnz6w
  • In a musical poem he is heard to dehumanise Tigrayans and to glorify the war in Tigray and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is also reinforced through the strong use of imagery in his videos. He has interwoven diaspora born Eritreans’ TikTok clips (12:58-13:27 minute mark) into his propaganda message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Y9w-716xoc
  • Another song endorses and praises the indefinite Eritrean youth national military service that has been one of the main causes of Eritrean youth out migration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiDT23nqJJ8  (Message received 9 August 2022)

A similar opinion is expressed by an expert of the region who argues on Awel Seid:

This is an ardent supporter of Sha’ebiya (..) trying to boost the moral of his followers through praise of the “invincible” Eritreans. He refers to Tigrayans as historic enemies and warns Eritreans not to listen to call of fraternity from ‘across the Mereb River’.’ The comment was provided in response to a clip that shows Awel Seid on Eritrean festival Sweden (Message received Monday 8 August 2022)

The expert equally finds that the message of Awel Seid is a message of violence:

I think it is worth adding details. It is an ideologically elaborate call for systematic hate against Tigrayans. There are three main messages, he says:
1. They, the Tegaru (Tigrayans), are inherently evil, they have three plans a, b, and c to destroy you (Eritreans)
2. You (Eritreans) are human/high level human, them (‘nisom kem seb’ -> literally: they are as human) – meaning: they act/look as if they are humans but are not as you (Eritreans) real human.
3. You (Eritreans) must be without shame and be proud to fight them not only over 30 years but 100 and even 3000 years with this evil/not human. (Comment by expert received on Monday 8 August 2022)

According to another expert, the texts have the intention to normalise violence against the Tigray people, by glorifying the Indefinite National Service in Eritrea. The military are trained in a camp called Sawa. The expert finds:

Awel in praise of Sawa. This video contains clips of Tigrayans reporting rape and killings by Eritreans. My understanding of it is that these crimes are minimised. There is reference to the Warsay as both Christians and Moslem and to the crimes committed by the Ethiopian forces in Eritrea during the border War in the video these forces are referred to as Woyane deliberately miss describing the nature of the forces. Sacrifice, nationalism central to the message (referring to https://youtu.be/dfwXZPKnz6w).

The Border War was fought between Eritrea and Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000.

The UN has classified the indefinite national service which begins in the military training camp of Sawa, in Eritrea, as a crime against humanity. Depicting the military supported with the text, the poster would appear to glorify the national service in Eritrea. The indefinite national service in Eritrea is widely seen as one of the main reasons for the high number of refugees from the country and a reason why youth from Eritrea attempts to cross over the Mediterranean Sea to Europe- a very dangerous journey in which many lose their life.

(Poster with Translation of Tigrinya language on the poster to Dutch)

Awel Seid seems to be making a tour in Europe to muster support for the Eritrean regime and he has already performed in Sweden: Awel Seid on Eritrean Festival Sweden. While the event generated a lot of protest and was cancelled at the event venue, Awel Seid still performed hate speech while in the country.

Awel Seid’s texts are strongly pro Russia and also anti-America:

Aweil Said is a PFDJ poet. Journalist Sajid (my way youtube) describes the presentation by the poet during the Eritrean Swedish festival as a political speech.

It is a political speech and precisely it is a Charge D’Affair Steve Walker and more generally a USA bashing exercise, listing all the conflicts the USA has and is involved in and generally blaming all of the problems of Africa on the USA. (https://twitter.com/AmanuelERI1/status/1554161053759586304?t=yff8GsWt2Xd3JJ2nyZvd_w&s=08)

Pictures used in messages to promote the war with Tigray depict Awel Seid and other actors and further underscore the military glorification that he promotes:

The images are taken from programs at the front in the borders of Eritrea and Tigray with the group of Singers and Film Makers doing war propaganda.  Awel Seid and the team “Walta” are seen there. (Message received 11 August 2022).

Walta is understood to be a cultural group of the Ministry of Defence in Eritrea (Message 11 August 2022). Pictures are understood to be taken at the frontline and in Sawa. This is a production of the Walta group: https://youtu.be/_Vb7yqFopBA

Following pictures are depicting the production of the Walta group:

(1 Figure on the right is Awel Said)

(2  Awel Seid with Meleake Rezene Alem ( Proud Eritrean) and Meleake)

(3 Awel Seid (left) with one of the commanders at the frontline)

https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/WhatsApp-Image-2022-08-10-at-09.54.36-300x188.jpeg 300w, https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/WhatsApp-Image-2022-08-10-at-09.54.36-768x482.jpeg 768w" alt="" width="519" height="325" class="wp-image-6420" style="box-sizing: inherit; height: auto; max-width: 100%; border: 0px; vertical-align: top; border-radius: inherit;" data-recalc-dims="1" />

(4 Rezene Alem ( ኩራዕ) (military figure with the microphone))

Pictures with Awel Seid taken at the front and in Sawa, with the cultural group Walta of the Ministry of Defense and of Cultural Affairs in Eritrea, according to members of the diaspora who sent these, the pictures glorify the militarisation of Eritrea and its war with Tigray (Ethiopia).

The texts relate (among others) to Eritrean proverbs which need intimate understanding of the language and the context of these. Commenting on the pictures a member of the Eritrean diaspora states:

The main message of pictures is always standing with Eritrean forces and give encourage Picture describes as encouragement  take action against Tigray (Message 11 August 2022)

As a viewer of these images, we are asked to look up at the military performance, providing sentiments of power, strength and force.

Letters by Eritrean Diaspora Movements

Eritrean diaspora organisations have protested the event.

For instance, the Eritrea Bright Future Movement wrote to the Mayor of Rijswijk to express concern over the event. Awel Seid is a leader of a “military music band”, they state:

For this ‘cultural festival’, a military music group has been invited, Walta (which means ‘dagger’), whose leader (Awal Said) is guilty of, among other things, writing very rude threatening lyrics against Eritrean dissidents and Tigrayans: for example, ‘Tigrayans should be wiped off the face of the earth’. He chanted this last month in Sweden, among other places, and the venue’s landlord cancelled the rental. (https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Brief-naar-de-burgmeester-Rijswijk-2.pdf)

It also denounces this event as an insult to the democracy of the Netherlands:

The festival is a serious attack on the democratic society of the Netherlands. The seriously radicalised supporters of the regime will see this as confirmation that they have a free hand in the Netherlands and can seriously threaten people in the diaspora without any consequences.( https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Brief-naar-de-burgmeester-Rijswijk-2.pdf)

The movement urged the mayor to cancel this event. The full letter from the Eritrea Bright Future Movement can be found here.

The Foundation for Human Rights also sent a letter to the mayor of Rijswijk, expressing concern about the event. The Foundation says that the event is being:

organised by the long arm of the Eritrean regime (of the political party PFDJ) under the control of the security and intelligence services, with a military character. (https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Eritrea-Festival-Rijswijk-2022-FIN03082022.pdf)

The Foundation denounces the fact that the work of Awel Seid constitutes hate speech and incites genocidal violence:

Awel Seid’s texts, in his poems and speeches, aim to create an atmosphere in which genocidal intentions are (or can be) normalised. His expressions are described as ‘hate speech’ and are inadmissible in the Netherlands. Although freedom of expression exists in principle in the Netherlands, it does not protect expressions that incite genocidal violence. (https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Eritrea-Festival-Rijswijk-2022-FIN03082022.pdf)

The foundation finds that Awel Seid

was sent by the highest military security authorities in Eritrea and is supported by the intelligence services. (https://www.eepa.be//wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Eritrea-Festival-Rijswijk-2022-FIN03082022.pdf)

The full letter by the Foundation is available here.

A Letter of Summons addressed to the PFDJ sent by the Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans

Through its lawyer, the Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans sent a letter to the consul of Eritrea in The Netherlands requesting that the (Y)PFDJ cancels the event immediately and urgently. In its letter, they find that the event is political rather than cultural,

The event is billed as a ‘cultural’ event. However, the event is in fact aimed at (1) illegally collecting ‘tax’ from Eritreans in the diaspora and (2) at spreading political propaganda which qualifies as hate speech. (https://eritreahub.org/urgent-call-to-eritrean-embassy-to-cancel-pfdj-festival-or-face-legal-sanctions)

The Foundation also expressed concern about this type of event, which the Foundation states is used to monitor the Eritrean diaspora in the country and around the world, and is used to observe who is loyal to the regime and who is not, while forcing financial contributions that will contribute to the Tigray war.

What is more, it is highly likely that the fundraising at this event will go towards financing the involvement of the Eritrean State in the war in Tigray. It has been widely and convincingly documented that the Eritrean State is responsible for grave violations of human rights during this war, including the use of rape as a weapon of war and extrajudicial massacres of civilians. (https://eritreahub.org/urgent-call-to-eritrean-embassy-to-cancel-pfdj-festival-or-face-legal-sanctions)

The full letter of the lawyer can be found here. Copies of the letter were also sent to Event Plaza and the Municipality of Rijswijk.

Police points the public to a special telephone line

As a result, mobilisation in The Netherlands has become widespread. The Dutch Eritrean democratic opposition started to look at all the other potential venues for this event and possible future ones, and the Eritrean community reported en masse to the police that they felt threatened by such events.

In addition, the police have shared a reporting form for anyone who would like to report the event or the telephone number 0900 8844.  The police requested the public to report any threat related to this event or any other event that causes concern in the Eritrean and Tigray communities using the reporting form.

Members of the diaspora have shared the information on twitter.

See also the article here.

Event cancelled for administrative and security reasons

The Municipality of Rijswijk has subsequently communicated to Eritrean democracy and human rights representatives that the event will not take place. A notification of the event would have been required by the municipality, but according to the municipality this notification was not received. After checks and talks with the police and the municipality it turned out the required safety measures for the event had not been organized (again according to the municipality). Members of the diaspora announced:

(Screenshots of information by Rijswijk Municipality of the cancellation of the event in Event Plaza)

The scheduled Shaabia/PFDJ Festival in the Netherlands on 13/08/2022 has been cancelled due to security reasons.  Please protect our area from clandestine activities and call the police if you see any gatherings!! (Translated fromTigrigna).

According to diaspora organisations, it would appear that the event was organised under the organisation Stichting Nederlands Eritrees Platform (SNEP) registered under the Commerce of Trade number 67272789.

These events are regularly held and attended by representatives of the Eritrean regime at the highest level. Yemane Gebreab, Head of Political Affairs at the PFDJ and Presidential Advisor had participated at last year’s festival. (Eritrean community festival in Scandinavian countries).

The threat expressed by the members of the diaspora is that these events are used to spy on them.

A picture in which Awel Seid is depicted with the Eritrean strongman Isayas Afwerki, who rules the countries for decades and has absolute power, seems to underscore his closeness to the dictator. According to information received Awel Seid received a “G plus 1 building” by the President, as a means of ensuring his loyalty.

According to another expert, this is normal practice at the top of the regime:

This is a normal practice. Generals have also received houses in Asmara ( around Tiravolo and CampoPolo) that used to belong to Italians. The Secretary of PFDJ received land in Massawa and he built his villa there. A relative of mine in Eritrea also lost her house in Massawa and now at the site there is a Palace that belongs to a senior PFDJ person. On the way to Hamasien Beach there used to be a villa that belonged to an Eritrean Italian who was told to hand over the house because the Government needed it. (Message received 10 August 2022).

Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigray war has resulted in sanctions by the US Presidential Executive Order (E.O.) 14046: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0478. International sanctions include the National Security Agency under Abraha Kassa in Eritrea.

Different posters

The event was announced in two different posters, which were apparently used to communicate with different audiences. One poster of the same event just shows the event as a cultural event only.

Event announced in Germany

The event is also announced in Germany. In Germany also two different posters are used to announce the event. The event is announced for 20 August 2022, and a link to the event is available here: http://dehai.org/dehai/events

The same two posters are used for this event. The second poster does not depict Awel Seid.

Links of interests:

Letter from the Foundation Human Rights for Eritrean
Urgent call to Eritrean Embassy to cancel PFDJ Festival – or face legal sanctions
Awel Seid clip – Violence, war, hate, etc. as hallmarks of songs and poems
Awel Seid clip – Support of Russian invasion of Ukraine
Awel Seid clip – Approval of civilian killings
Awel Seid clip – Glorification of Tigray war
Awel Seid clip – Glorification of the Eritrean national service
Treasury Sanctions Four Entities and Two Individuals in Connection with the Crisis
Leaked zoom meeting of the regime’s Charge d’Affairs, Mr. Sirak Bahlbi
Beyene Gebrezgabeher – Festival cancelled
Politie – Meldformulier terrorisme
Dutch police call for information about intimidation at PFDJ Festival – under terrorism law
Enter the judge, exit the veterans
Twitter: Amanuel ERI – PFDJ festival faces resistance
Twitter: Amanuel ERI – Festival stopped for security reasons
Twitter: Amanuel ERI – Awel Seid’s speech with subtitles

For more information on the event that took place in Sweden, the following links are available:

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2 COMMENTS

  1. K.Terry Brown says:

    Awel Seid is the embodiment of classic racist Nazi character seen often through history as an evil loser and the historical butt of ridicule by the thoughtful peace loving global community. The end of him and his ilk at the foot of the judgement seat of almighty God is already predetermined.

  2. Habte Hagos says:

    The cancellation of the PFDJ thugs event in the Netherlands that had been scheduled to take place on 13/08/22 is an excellent result. Well done to the diaspora and the Dutch people for this magnificent result.

    Now the ball is in the court of the Eritrean diaspora in Germany. The oppressed and long suffering Eritrean people look to you to ensure the hate event scheduled for 20/08/22 never takes place. ACT NOW!

    Going forward, we should fight to stop any PFDJ event that is planned to take place any where in the world.

    Let them have their festivals in Asmara.