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Asylum seekers: Israeli support for Eritrea prevents us from going home

‘We call on the Israeli government to stop all diplomatic and economic ties with Eritrea, including ending Israeli military presence on Eritrean islands, suspending the sharing of intelligence, and stopping all economic support to the dictatorship.’

By Isayas Teklebrhan

Eritrean asylum seekers protest in front of the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (photo: Frezghi Sibhat)

More than 100 Eritrean asylum seekers traveled to Jerusalem by bus on Sunday to hold a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The protesters tolerated the hot weather in order to properly convey their message to the Israeli government.

The slogans of the demonstrations called on Israel to stop supporting the Eritrean dictatorship and halt all relations with it. They also called on the Israel government to work to release political prisoners held in Eritrean prisons.

Ahead of the demonstration, Eritrean asylum seekers worked together to draft a letter on behalf of the community. I read this letter at the protest, and it is printed here in full:

We, the Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel, are calling on the Israeli government to end all relations with the government of Eritrea. We can only go home to Eritrea when our country is safe and right now Israel’s support for the dictatorship is making this dream even farther from reality.

We call on the Israeli government to stop all diplomatic and economic ties with Eritrea, including ending Israeli military presence on the Eritrean islands of Dahlak and Fatma, suspending the sharing of intelligence, and stopping all economic support to the dictatorship.

The vast and grave human rights abuses carried out by the Eritrean regime as well as the Eritrean government’s support for terrorist organizations like the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabab have caused the United Nations, United States, European Union, Canada, and Australia to all sanction Eritrea. Israel is a powerful country on the international arena and we believe that Israel should join the rest of the world and call for democracy and human rights to be restored in Eritrea.

Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel want to go home. Right now Israel is part of the reason why we cannot. Stop your relations with Eritrea.

We envision an Eritrea that is peaceful and democratic. Such an Eritrea would be the friend of the world, including good friends with Israel. Having a longstanding relationship with a democratic Eritrea is more in Israel’s interests then supporting an Eritrean dictatorship whose stability in the region is in question.

This week marks the 11th anniversary of the arrest of the G-15, a group of government ministers and other prominent individuals who called for democratic elections in Eritrea. They have never stood trial or heard their charges, many are presumed dead following years of torture in underground chambers. With the thousands of political prisoners suffering in Eritrea in mind, we will use this opportunity to tell you about the dictatorship prison known as Eritrea.

The totalitarian regime in Eritrea uses unlimited conscription to the army as a way to keep control over the people. Men and women soldiers from ages of 18 to their mid-50s are subjected to forced labor; their army service includes farming officer’s agricultural fields and building construction projects not for the benefit of the state but rather to supplement the pockets of those close to the government. Eritreans who oppose their enslavement in the military are put on black lists, tortured, imprisoned in underground dungeons, and many are murdered. Individuals caught deserting their mandatory service are arrested, tortured, and may be killed.

As the Eritrean government perceives religious followings as threats to its power, the government significantly limits religious freedom. The government has banned all but four religious denominations and followers of banned religions systematically disappear and are imprisoned. Leaders from permitted religions whose followings become too big and thus threaten the government are also methodically tortured and imprisoned.

Similarly, Eritrea bans all independent media; anyone thought to be publishing alternative information is summarily tortured and imprisoned. Even those that work for the one state-run television channel are constantly under surveillance as the government seeks out potential dissidents. Eritrea goes as far as to limit freedom of assembly; anyone who wants to gather more than three people must have a government permit.

We would be very happy to meet with you and further discuss these issues and are looking forward to hearing from you soon to arrange a meeting.

Thank you very much.
Eritrean asulum seekers

Isayas Teklebrhan is an Eritrean refugee who has been living in Israel since 2010. He has a degree in physics from the University of Asmara in Eritrea. He left Eritrea after spending seven years in prison for his pro-democracy advocacy.

For more on the issue, see +972′s special coverage on Seeking Asylum in Israel

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    1. Rob

      It’s a shame that these people enjoy the benefits of their country–the writer has studied (for free in Eritrea) physics–and then turn their back on it and lie about it. Shame on the writer and the people he claims to represent. They wouldn’t lift a finger to work for the development of Eritrea, but they don’t have to think twice about raising a fist against it.

      Reply to Comment
      • eyob

        Hi body,those young man give more than they take and what is the problem with you defending this bucher of Eritrean back home.Are one of them?Go back and worshipe the bucher if that is your wish.Most probablily you are out side of the country pritending to be a refugee just like those brave young man and woman .

        Reply to Comment
    2. Eritrean

      Thank you for betraying your Country for your own mistakes.

      Reply to Comment
    3. sowhat

      You are unwanted Invaders. Israel will do whatever is necessary to remove your asses from the country.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Robel

      Brave Eritreans. You truly are fighting for the rights of Eritrea. The dictator has tarnished our image and it’s my prayer that he will go soon. The majority of intellectuals, young and working class of the country are getting out of the country in droves because the dictator won’t allowed them to maximize their God given potential.
      Our neighbors are building institutions such as universities and our dictator is building military camps and shutting down the only University we had.
      Down to the regime and victory to the Eritrea people.

      Reply to Comment
    5. pawlos

      That is what really Eritrea needs from its youth.This is a time to stand and break the silence against the bloodthirsty regime.And for those who are still playing with the blood,I want to tell them the day will come you and you jack ass tyrant will bring to justice.

      Reply to Comment