A student demonstration has been met with gunfire outside the President’s Office in Asmara, various online news avenues and commentators have reported. The demonstration was staged in response to the Eritrean government’s closure and interference with the Al Diaa Islamic School in the Akria district in the capital. According to the sources of Radio Erena, who has reported on the incident, the students had been only a less than an hour on site before the military arrived and dispersed them by gunfire.
The school, established in the 1960s, is in Akria and, although some reports online place the shootings in the school’s area, gunfire appears to have sparked in central Asmara. A video that has emerged online shows the crowds being chased by armed military and police in Harnet Avenue, a few blocks from the President’s Office. Another one shows the incident from another angle. As of yet there is no clear indication if there have been any casualties of injuries from the gunfire.
The United States Embassy in Asmara has issued a security message for its citizens related to the protest, advising they “avoid the downtown area” and because it received “reports of gunfire at several locations in Asmara”.
On Friday 20th October, the Eritrean Government arrested the school’s board director Mr. Hajji Musa Mohamed Nur after he presided over a community meeting to discuss the government made moves to seize and close the school. A video of with him speaking in Tigrinya to the affected community is also available online.
Mr. Hajji Musa’s brother, Taha Mohamed Nur, was a co-founder of the ELF movement during the 30 years independence war. He was arrested without charges and died in detention, his family was notified to collect the corpse from the prison on February 16th 2008 and given no explanation. An atrocity happening to untold number of Eritrean and of which the world was reminded this summer when the Eritrean government handed the body of Solomon Habtom on August 18th 2017 to his family after detaining him without charges and due process for 14 years before he died in custody.
The Eritrean government had also recently arrested administrators of the Seminario Catholic school, in Asmara, because they refused to close the private clergical school. Our sources have indicated that they have since been released, but the government of Eritrea’s indiscriminate attacks on freedom of religion continues to go unabated. The Eritrean Government claims to tolerate the practice of four faith denominations, namely the Christian Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant and well as Sunni Islam. However, along with the over-a-decade long detention of the Orthodox church’s patriarch Abune Antonios, the latest developments on faith schools closures and arrests of their administrators demonstrate that being a tolerated denomination doesn’t amount to much when it comes to a government that respects no human rights.
The recent attacks on Muslim theological schools is the latest, but not the first on the Eritrean Government’s record, as in the early 1990s it had closed various Muslim madrasa and arrested teachers, the most prominent one being in Keren.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea
31 October 2017