'Erase them from history': Eritreans mark 20 years since brutal purge

© Ebrahim HAMID Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, pictured on a visit to Khartoum in September 2019, has been in power for almost three decades

The last time Noel Joseph saw his uncle, they spent most of their visit discussing a daring proposition: going public with criticism of Eritrean autocrat Isaias Afwerki. 

It was June 2001, and Noel’s uncle, government minister Petros Solomon, was preparing an open letter warning that the Red Sea nation was in “crisis”, with Isaias “acting without restraint” and refusing to hold promised elections. 

Noel recognised the letter was powerful and worried about what might happen to his uncle under a government that had no tolerance for dissent. 

These fears proved well-founded: On September 18, 2001, one month after publishing the letter, Petros was rounded up while out for a jog, part of a lightning-fast crackdown that spelt the death knell for opposition under Isaias. 

“I think this was the time when the Eritrean dream, or Eritrean hope, was dashed really. Because there was a lot of hope until then,” Noel told AFP this week. 

Security agents detained 11 high-profile dissenters over two fateful days in September 2001, and then proceeded to shut down all private media. 

With the 20-year-anniversary of the purge this weekend, the victims remain incommunicado, swallowed up by the Eritrean gulag, their families unable to confirm if they are alive or dead.

Isaias, meanwhile, is still in power, his position not visibly challenged even as his regime comes under fresh scrutiny — this time for the conduct of Eritrean forces in the brutal war in northern Ethiopia. 

– Road to repression –

Authoritarian and secretive, Isaias rose to power by commanding one of Africa’s most remarkable rebel forces during a 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia, its much larger neighbour.

The rebels finally took the capital Asmara in 1991, an achievement facilitated by their alliance with an Ethiopian rebel movement, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which took control of Addis Ababa that same year. 

But cracks soon formed in that partnership, leading to a two-year border war from 1998 that left tens of thousands of people dead. 

The open letter published in 2001 took particular issue with the war, saying it “revealed fundamental weaknesses in the way we function”. 

Tensions between Isaias and his critics were palpable in the year leading up to the September 2001 purge, said journalist and academic Dan Connell, who interviewed several of the letters’ signatories, known as the G-15, during their final months of freedom. 

“It was clear that this was going to build,” Connell said, adding that by August “things were getting really intense”. 

After silencing his high-profile critics, Isaias moved against those who spoke out about what happened to them, including Connell, who had been working at the information ministry but was ordered to leave the country in 2002. 

Relatives of the G-15 were also caught in the dragnet. 

In 2003 Petros’ wife, Aster Yohannes, returned to Eritrea from the US, where she had been studying, having received assurances that she could safely visit her family. 

She was arrested on arriving at Asmara’s airport and, like her husband, has not been heard from since. 

– ‘Press freedom predator’ –

September 2001 also brought a crushing assault on press freedom in Eritrea, with 11 journalists caught up in the arrests that month.

As with the politicians, it is impossible to know for sure where the journalists are being held and whether they are still alive.

Among them is Dawit Isaak, a reporter at the independent newspaper Setit who has dual Eritrean-Swedish citizenship. 

The 56-year-old is reportedly locked up in the infamous Eiraeiro prison, where torture is allegedly common practice. 

Last month UN rights experts said a credible source had indicated Dawit was still alive as of September 2020 — the first sign of life in seven years. 

His brother, Esayas Isaak, told AFP he had no information about that clue, but said he was happy the world was starting to pay attention. 

For years he struggled to raise awareness about Dawit’s case, in no small part because the crackdown in Eritrea came just one week after the 9/11 attacks in the US. 

“For Isaias and his regime, it was a good opportunity to do what they wanted, as the world’s focus was not on Eritrea, definitely not on Africa,” Esayas said. 

The latest global index from Reporters Without Borders placed Eritrea last out of 180 countries, and the group refers to Isaias as a “press freedom predator”. 

– ‘Coercion, fear and force’ –

In the past year, Eritrea has been in the news mostly for its role in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, where it has backed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to topple the TPLF. 

AFP has documented allegations that Eritrean soldiers have carried out massacres in the region and engaged in widespread rapes of Tigrayan women. 

Eritrea has rejected those charges, although in August the US imposed sanctions on its army chief Filipos Woldeyohannes over human rights abuses in Tigray.  

Connell said the events of September 2001 and what is happening today in Tigray “are closely related”. 

“This is the regime that keeps itself in power through coercion, fear and force. And it’s attempting to export those approaches to the situation in Ethiopia,” he said. 

Even if that connection did not exist, Noel said it would be important to remember men like his uncle who helped build Eritrea before running afoul of Isaias. 

“The sad aspect of all this is these are people who were prepared to die for the independence of the country, and who had served the country highly,” he said. 

“They are historical figures who made a huge contribution. And the regime tried to erase them from history.”


Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Royal Family news latest – How Queen's amazing last minute advice stopped Prince William DUMPING Kate Middleton

THE Queen offered Prince William some last ditch advice that stopped him dumping Kate Middleton, it has been claimed. Back in the early days of their relationship in 2006, William ... Read more »

10 Things in Politics: Dems slash Biden's agenda in search for a deal

Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. Sign up here to receive this newsletter. Plus, download Insider’s app for news on the go – click here for iOS and here ... Read more »

Conspiracist charged over alleged French coup plot

A far-right conspiracy theorist has been charged with terrorism over an alleged plot to overthrow the French government, among other violent acts. © Getty Images Rémy Daillet was already being ... Read more »

Virginia promotes book telling teachers to embrace CRT, which McAuliffe says isn't being taught

Virginia’s Department of Education is promoting a book that says “teachers must embrace theories such as critical race theory.” Terry McAuliffe has said throughout his gubernatorial campaign that the radical ... Read more »

Inheritance Tax warning: Treasury to profit from thousands of Britons paying ‘stealth' tax

Despite the Inheritance Tax (IHT) thresholds staying put, more and more people will pay the tax as the value of their estates increase. Inflation and a surge in the housing ... Read more »

EaseMyTrip signs agreement to acquire travel B2B marketplace Traviate

© Provided by Business Today EaseMyTrip signs agreement to acquire travel B2B marketplace Traviate  Online travel portal, Ease My Trip announced on Thursday that it has signed a non-binding agreement ... Read more »

Virals: Scott Brown winds up Rangers as Celtic win

Former Celtic enforcer and 14-year club legend Scott Brown has produced a tremendous wind-up after scoring a screamer for Aberdeen against Rangers last night. © Ian MacNicol/Getty Images Sport Aberdeen ... Read more »

[Watch] Deaf Woman Disappointed After KFC Doesn't Take Her Order At Drive-Thru this one?

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest stories and updates. Local entrepreneur and vlogger, Siti Aira Sharina or Aira Meor, was left feeling emotional after her recent trip to a KFC ... Read more »

JSE lifts but inflation worries remain

© Provided by Business Live The JSE was firmer on Thursday morning, with its global peers mixed as investors worry that recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will slow as elevated ... Read more »

Patel promises ‘thorough review' of police vetting

Home Secretary Priti Patel has promised to conduct a “thorough review” of police vetting in light of recent accusations against Metropolitan Police officers and the sentencing of Wayne Couzens. Speaking ... Read more »

Jada Pinkett Smith says she and Will Smith have 'never' had issues in the bedroom in response to reports about sex conversation with Gwyneth Paltrow

© Dominik Bindl/Getty Images Jada Pinkett Smith. Dominik Bindl/Getty Images Jada Pinkett Smith responded to reports that she and Will Smith had issues in the bedroom. She tweeted that the ... Read more »

#NotInMyName movement wants Eswatini king to aside step amid democracy protests

© Kingdom of eSwatini. King Mswati III with Special Envoy Jeff Radebe at the king’s palace in eSwatini. JOHANNESBURG – The Not In My Name Movement said that King Mswati ... Read more »

Satanic teenager jailed for life for murdering sisters

A teenager has been jailed for at least 35 years for murdering two sisters as part of a Satanic blood pact. Danyal Hussein, 19, savagely stabbed Bibaa Henry, 46, and ... Read more »

8 best hybrid bikes for city commutes and keeping fit

With the pandemic changing our transport needs, it might be time to invest in a new ride (iStock/The Independent) Hybrid bicycles incorporate elements of traditional road bikes with ideas taken ... Read more »

Former Nike, Adidas executives launch footwear brand for Indian children, teenagers

© Provided by CNBCTV18 Three former executives of global footwear behemoths Nike and Adidas have started a venture to make shoes for Indian children.  The startup, known as Plaeto, is ... Read more »

MHA Extends Covid Guidelines Till Nov 30; Containment Zones to Remain Under Lockdown

© Provided by News18 MHA Extends Covid Guidelines Till Nov 30; Containment Zones to Remain Under Lockdown In view of the spike in Coronavirus cases post the festive season in ... Read more »

Manchester United lineup Solskjaer must pick vs Tottenham to save his job

Whether you think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should still be in a job or not — and whatever the reasons for him retaining his position at Manchester United — there’s no ... Read more »

Google unveils Android 12L operating system for foldables, tablets

© Provided by Zee News New Delhi: After releasing Android 12, Google has announced a preview of Android 12L, which may sound like a new version of Android, but Google ... Read more »

Incorp India invests $10 million in compliance tech platform Vakilsearch

© Provided by The Times of India CHENNAI: Compliance tech platform Vakilsearch, a startup that supports small businesses and individuals with legal, tax and compliance needs, has raised $10 million ... Read more »

Danyal Hussein: Teenage Satanist sentenced to life in prison for murder of sisters in Wembley

The teenage Satanist who murdered two sisters in Wembley last year has been sentenced to life in jail with a minimum period of 35 years. © Independent Breaking News Danyal ... Read more »

A Priceless Reaction By The Daughter Of A New Bride Goes Viral

We’re lately watching a video on loop, and it is of a mother-daughter duo on the mother’s D day! The reaction of the baby girl is absolutely adorable and we ... Read more »

Canadian lawyer auctioning NFT of previously unpublished Edward Snowden photos

© Provided by National Post Image of a non-fungible token featuring photos of Edward Snowden and Canadian lawyer Rob Tibbo. The Canadian lawyer who helped Edward Snowden evade capture in ... Read more »

Seeing secular shift in real estate; hybrid work culture to continue: Mohnish Pabrai

© Provided by CNBCTV18 “I am a bottom-up stock picker and I don’t really have market views that one should hang on to. When I find a business that I ... Read more »

When the pee hit the fan: What SpaceX passengers didn't mention about their private flight experience

© Provided by National Post A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is rolled out to the launch pad on Oct. 27, 2021 as preparations continue ... Read more »

Real estate players infuse fresh funds in Delhi, NCR; likely to push new launches

© Provided by CNBCTV18 In a fresh move, once again real estate players have started looking at pumping in fresh funds in Delhi-NCR region for new launches and completing projects, ... Read more »

Deepak Dobriyal aspires to redefine comedy and tragedy through his acting

© Provided by Pinkvilla Renowned actor Deepak Dobriyal, who is known for his versatility, will soon be seen in the upcoming comedy thriller ‘Aafat-e-Ishq’. The actor says while most of the ... Read more »

'Has to start' - Aston Villa fans send Dean Smith emphatic message ahead of West Ham clash

The pressure on Dean Smith to change Aston Villa’s formation has intensified as the game with West Ham United looms. Villa were swept aside at Arsenal last time out, 2-0 ... Read more »

Liverpool legends rave about Rangers coach Michael Beale, the Cardiff City bolter who's much better than Steven Gerrard

Of all the names understood to be on Cardiff City’s radar, Michael Beale is certainly one of the most intriguing. A coach with an impressive CV, Beale has worked with ... Read more »

Did you know former Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah actor Gurucharan Singh was offered Bigg Boss twice?

© Provided by Pinkvilla Actor Gurucharan Singh is better known as Sodhi from Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah. He has been missing in action after he quit the show last ... Read more »

Mammoth Protest in Assam: Hundreds Resist Plan to Cut 6,000 Trees, Say It'll Damage Elephant Corridor

© Provided by News18 Mammoth Protest in Assam: Hundreds Resist Plan to Cut 6,000 Trees, Say It’ll Damage Elephant Corridor A series of protests has been on for about a ... Read more »

Badava Rascal Glimpse: Dhananjaya introduces his ganster boys in style with mass background music

© Provided by Pinkvilla Dhananjaya, the popular Kannada actor, has a bunch of movies lined up including Badava Rascal which is slated to release for Christmas release. Today, the makers ... Read more »

Katrina Kaif - Vicky Kaushal wedding: Month, days, venue, guests, bridal trousseau and more details out!

© Provided by BollywoodLife.com Bollywood’s most popular rumoured couple Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal‘s wedding news has been doing the rounds for the last two days on social media. According ... Read more »

Strathaven club have a ball on Return to Rugby weekend

Strathaven Rugby Club have hailed the success of their Return to Rugby event as a wide array of activities took place over the weekend. © Pete McGunnigal) The club held ... Read more »

Dapo Afolayan makes intriguing admission about recent aspect of his Bolton Wanderers performances

© Provided by Football League World League One – Bolton Wanderers v Burton Albion Bolton winger Dapo Afolayan admits he has found some of the tackles he has been on ... Read more »

Indian police arrest seven for ‘celebrating' Pakistan cricket win

Indian police have arrested seven Muslim youths for allegedly celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match on Sunday. Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a senior Bharatiya Janata ... Read more »

India rejects net zero emissions target, says it's a 'victim' of global warming, 'not a contributor'

India is going into the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland with a strong message for wealthy nations: get your house in order first when it comes to increasing climate ... Read more »

Jennifer Lawrence Just Wore the "Warm and Comfortable" Beanie You Can Get for $17 at Amazon

One of the best parts of cold-weather fashion is that you can use accessories like a knit beanie to avoid styling your hair one day or to extend the time ... Read more »

Lowe's Pre-Black Friday Sales Have Officially Begun

© ivanastar – Getty Images Thought you had to wait until Black Friday to save big? Think again! A bunch of your favorite stores have already started to mark down ... Read more »

McDonald's says service is slower and some of its restaurants are closing earlier because of the labor shortage

© Provided by Business Insider McDonald’s has raised prices but says customers aren’t deterred. Joe Raedle/Getty Images McDonald’s says staff shortages are making service slower at its restaurants. Some McDonald’s ... Read more »

‘Deer in headlights' - These WHU fans slam ‘disappointing' ace who had fewer touches than Areola

© Provided by Transfer Tavern nikola vlasic vs man city As West Ham United caused a major upset with their Carabao Cup Last 16 victory over Manchester City at the ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic