Eritrea: The fact that the flight itself might cost the refugees lives, is telling
Statement to press conference "Eritrean deserters report about imprisonment and torture"
(09.09.2010) Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
First of all I would like to thank you all for joining us in this press conference today. Next, I’d like to congratulate Frau Antje Becker, the members of Connection e.V. and Pro Asyl, in the name of Eritrean Antimilitarist Initiative (EAI) for their invaluable effort and for making this day real. I’d also like to congratulate and welcome Yonas and Petros for their newly acquired freedom.
As we all know, people from poor countries like Eritrea may leave their homeland for obvious and no obvious reasons. Some of the obvious reasons that have been driving people to migrate within their political borders, across their political borders and across continents can be:
- Instability caused by war and warfare induced forced recruitment and military brutality
- Dictatorial regimes and absence of security, justice and rights
- Drought, famine and other natural catastrophe caused by environmental and climate change
- Poverty, economic disparity, and search of a better life and change
After enjoying and benefiting from the freedom and peace in my daily life for seven years in Germany, I personally give right to all those people who flee for such causes. According to my understanding all are reasons enough to leave such hostile environments.
Human beings have been fleeing such causes for thousands of years. Never in human history have they tolerated them nor will they tolerate them in the future, for they are against the human sprit that strives for freedom, survival and change.
From my experience for me as a contemporary Eritrean, Germany is by far different for Eritrea. Germany has well established the principle of individual freedoms and liberties, it is very peaceful and it has never imposed restriction on individual creativity and innovative capacity.
To the contrary, Eritrea today is suffering under the rule one of the contemporary world dictators. Bold human rights abuses and violations, restrictions of all kinds, and man made poverty and hungers are obvious. But to mention a few:
- Politicians and political opponents who call for reform and accountability and journalists have been imprisoned since September 18, 2001 incommunicado for nine years now. Some are dead and some are left to die of solitary confinement, medical negligence, and hunger, deprived of their right to a fair trial and family visit.
- Youngsters have been forcefully recruited, rounded up in the streets and send into endless national service and hard labour since July, 1994. I am talking about a national service of up to 14 years and with no end in sight. The country’s productive man power is trapped in such a situation, unable to lead a civilian life, build a career, start a family or look after elderly parents.
- Graduating class of high school students have been sent to military training boot camp located in one of the harshest locations of the country in order to get their high school leaving certificate since 2003. The students are striped off their freedom to live at home with their families and study at a school nearby.
- The one and only university of the country University of Asmara has been shut down by the government since 2006, and replaced by military generals administered collages.
- There is strong restriction of movement imposed on citizens both to move within the country and move out side the country. Military check points are everywhere in between regions and cities. Citizens are asked for local ID cards and travel permits to travel within the country. Failing to produce such document can result in arrest. On the national borders, there are special border guards assigned to shoot on spot or arrest people trying to flee the country.
- Eritreans are striped of exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, rights to be protected and to criticize the policies of their government. The government forbids citizens from voicing their opinions. Trying to exercise these rights can have a sever consequence of imprisonment and disappearance.
- The government has closed churches since 2005. Consequently, the polices and security forces are breaking the church doors or carrying out house to house searches to drag innocent Christian worshippers of different denominations off to prison.
Still Germans can probably relate better than any other nation in Europe to such a terrible situation. The memories of the shootings at the German-German border are still fresh. The Second World War has forced countless millions of people to flee. As the Eritreans some fled persecution by the state, other fled war and violence and yet other left to escape economic hardship after the war. People from the former GDR too, experience life without basic rights such as the right to speak or travel freely, or the fear of government agents spying into people’s private lives.
The list of persecution, abuse and human rights violations, of deprivations and hardships in Eritrea is long. And worst is, that there seems no hope or means to change the situation. The fact that the flight itself might cost the refugees lives, is telling. If you risk death to escape from a situation – how bad must it be? Therefore, today as we are here, I ask you judge the Eritrean cause for yourself. Do you think it was right to deport such innocent citizen who made it out of such a country?
Thank you very much.
Yohannes Kidane, Eritrean Antimilitarist Initiative: Statement to press conference, September 9, 2010