ICC Note: As the mass exodus to Europe continues from Africa and the Middle East, the second largest group of refugees escaping their native homeland are Eritreans. Since their independence in 1993, Eritrea has been ruled by a tyrannical leader who has squandered and stomped on every principle of independence and freedom since he took power. Eritrea is now considered Africa’s North Korea as its citizens have no true rights and execution and torture are a daily occurrence. Religious minorities, especially Christians are at the greatest risk as they are confined to shipping containers facing starvation, torture, and ultimately death. Unless massive efforts are executed against Eritrea, her people will continue to risk everything to escape and the Eritrean government will continue to violate religious freedoms and human rights.
10/28/2015 Eritrea (The Guardian) – Human rights violations, relentless cruelty, tyranny and oppression are, tragically, everyday experiences for Eritreans.
It is horrifying. It is also so far away from what so many Eritreans heroically fought for, and what campaigners outside that country were supporting, in the struggle for liberation.
Twenty-seven years ago, in March 1988, I traveled to Eritrea with a War on Want team to look at water projects and to assess other ways of developing partnership and support with Eritreans. I have been there twice since in delegations from the European parliament.
In 1988, in the midst of conflict, incessant Ethiopian air attacks meant we could only travel at night, and the devastating effects of the then 27-year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia were painfully plain.
At the hospital in Orotta, on the night after the battle of Afebet, we saw men and women fighters of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) army with the most terrible battlefield injuries, and we also witnessed the bravery, skill and inventiveness of the people of Eritrea.
This, and other experiences at that time, made me even more determined to continue to show practical solidarity with the Eritreans who were demonstrating the indomitable spirit, which had, for years, enabled them to fight poverty, famine, and armed Ethiopian aggression.
When I returned to Britain, I wrote a book in which I expressed great admiration for the people, for organisations like the National Union of Eritrean women… and for the EPLF leader, Isaias Afewerki.
When Eritrea finally achieved independence in 1993, we rejoiced at what we, and countless Eritreans, thought was the beginning of a future of freedom.
We were so wrong.
Twenty-two years later, Eritrea is now being described as Africa’s North Korea – and the cruelty that is inflicted on Eritrean people by the Afewerki regime justifies that description. The national assembly hasn’t met since 2002; the 1997 constitution has never been implemented; there is no independent judiciary; extra-judicial executions, torture, arbitrary detentions of journalists, teachers, and members of religious groups are common; Eritreans are not allowed to move, speak, assemble or organise freely; indefinite compulsory military conscription and forced labour prevails.