On 24th May 2017, it will be 26 years since Eritrea gained its independence!
Should there not be great rejoicing? Let us see what we may celebrate…With hard-won independence, we would expect, above all … freedom……
Yet Eritreans enjoy less freedom than any other country’s citizens, except perhaps North Koreans. You are not even free to leave your own country…that basic human right…if you had the misfortune to be born in Eritrea.
We would expect that a free human being could decide where and how to work….
Yet Eritreans have no right to the labour of their own bodies and minds—they belong to the state under the endless national service–until when? At the Age of 70, you may still be in slave labour, and die doing it…
We would expect, in a newly-born state, that human rights would be cherished and all freedoms guaranteed…
Political freedom? –there is none: no political parties, no parliament, no elections, no democracy, no free press, no unions, no alternative to the regime in power…
Religious freedom? –there is none: thousands in prison bear silent witness to the persecution of their faith…
But in the liberation struggle, all were equal, men and women—they won freedom together—surely that equality was won for all time?
Tell that to young women abused and raped in the army. Tell that to the displaced women begging on the streets of Asmara. See how many women feature in the cabinet of the President…
Well, perhaps the “people of a new state” care more for their new prosperity, a well-fed life, progress, comfort?
Does a prosperous state have thousands of children dying of malnutrition? Endless water shortages even in its capital city? Wages that are no more than pocket money?
So, in 26 years, much can be achieved, much built, a glorious new country founded. And yet…what can we celebrate on this Independence Day?
What we can celebrate is not visible on the streets of Asmara. We can celebrate no achievements of an inspired radical leadership. No!
— But let us never forget: –
The sheer nobility of those who have opposed a cruel dictatorship, the martyrs who have lost their lives for their beliefs; the heroes who suffered torture, but still endured, to denounce the villainy at work in Eritrea to a sleeping world. The tenacity of those who will not give up, in the face of the apparent hopelessness of the struggle against a rampant evil.
Let us celebrate the spirit of a people who still struggle for justice, inside and outside their beloved country, because they will not give up their dream of a new land of love and laughter, joy and opportunity…. even while their families are held hostage in order to shut the mouths of the truth-tellers.
For the martyred, truth will inexorably rise again, like the unsilenced spirits of the people who gave their lives to be its voice.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea