Human Rights Activists to Speak at Eritrean Community Center

The Eritrean Community Center, which was founded in 2000 with help from Milton resident and teacher Ruth Worrede, will host two internationally-known human rights activists on Saturday, January 19.

The free event at the community center, 590 Shawmut Ave., Roxbury, will begin at 4 p.m. and feature London-based human rights activist Elizabeth Chyrum and Simmons College professor Dan Connell.

Chyrum and Connell will address human trafficking and the refugee crisis in the northeast African country of Eritrea.

The Eritrean Community Center is a nonprofit organization that is owned and operated by Eritrean immigrants. It was established to help refugees integrate into society.

Learn more about the Eritrean Community Center at

The biographies for the two speakers below were provided by Michael Eyob, Eritrean Community Center.

Ms. Elizabeth Chyrum is the founder and director of Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) in London, which has been monitoring the worsening human rights situation in Eritrea and the plight of Eritrean asylum seekers since 2001.

HRCE has documented and exposed the abusive practices of the Eritrean government, which appears at the bottom of most assessments of human rights and democratic governance. The organization has raised awareness by advocating, lobbying, documenting and conducting educational research.

Ms. Chryum has also addressed members of the European and Canadian parliaments, the Commission for Human Rights, British human rights officials, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other international bodies on the suffering of Eritrean refugees in Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, and Sudan, highlighting “the pain of the people who make a bid for freedom by escaping from one country only to find themselves virtual or actual prisoners in another”.

Dan Connell, the author or editor of eight books on Eritrea, is often credited with single-handedly bringing to the attention of the outside world the story of the Eritrean people’s long struggle for independence from Ethiopia. He has traveled to the country often since 1976 and lived there for extended periods, reporting for the Guardian, the BBC, AP, Reuters, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, and other media in Europe and North America.

Connell was expelled from Eritrea in 2002 for criticizing the post-independence regime’s appalling human rights record. However, he has continued to report on it, traveling to Ethiopia in May-June 2012 to interview Eritrean refugees in camps along the tense frontier between the two states, which fought a bitter war over their un-demarcated border in 1998-2000 that left close to 100,000 people dead.

“Tens of thousands of Eritrean men, women, children and elderly have fled unrelenting repression to seek sanctuary in Ethiopia and Sudan,” Connell wrote in South Africa’s weekly Mail & Guardian. “Eritrea currently competes with North Korea and Turkmenistan for last place on most assessments of human rights and democracy, and has become one of the largest producers of asylum seekers in the world.”