Three men who play key role in crusade against repression in Eritrea, Africa, work from Athens

abraham

Freedom of expression is a concept that is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and is embedded in American culture and history. Many countries throughout the world have similar protections but a lot don’t. Quite the contrary.

In an effort to bring light to the extreme censorship and persecution that journalists face in their home country, exiled Eritrean writers founded the organization, or center, PEN Eritrea. Three of its members – Abraham Zere, Ghirmai Negash and Yonatan Tewelde – manage the center’s website and content from Athens, Ohio.

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(ኣብ መርበብ ሓበሬታ ፐን ኤርትራ ካብ ዝተሓትመ)

1971፡ ካብታ ሸውዓተ ቈልዑ ዝወለደት ስድራቤት ኣስራት መብራህቱን ኣብርሃጽዮን ሃይለን ኣብ ኣስመራ ዝተወልደ ኣማኑኤል: ምንኣስ ቦኽሪ ኰይኑ: መባእታ ኣብቲ ሽዑ “ሰሜናዊ” ተባሂሉ ዝጽዋዕ ዝነበረ፣ ማእከላይ ደረጃ ኣብ ቤት-ትምህርቲ ሽወደን ኣኽርያ፣ ካልኣይ ደረጃ ድማ ኣብ ሳንታ-ኣና (ናይ ሎሚ ሰማእታት) ወዲኡ። ብድሕሪኡ ኣብ 1989 ናብ ባህርዳር ብምኻድ ፔዳጎጂ (ትምህርቲ ስነ-ምምህርና) ንሓደ ዓመት ተኸታቲሉ። ኣብ 1990 ድማ ናብ ህዝባዊ ግንባር ብምንጽባር: ኣብ ቤት-ትምህርቲ ሰውራ ክሳብ መስከረም 1992 መምህር ኰይኑ ኣገልጊሉ። ድሕሪኡ ኣብ 1992 ናብቲ ሽዑ ዳግም ዝተኸፍተ ዩኒቨርስቲ ኣስመራ ብምእታው፡ትምህርቲ መሬትን ዕቃበ ማይን (soil science and water conservation) ኣጽኒዑ። ኣማኑኤል (ስድራቤቱን ናይ ቀረባ የዕሩኽቱን ዝምስክሩሉ) ንኻልኦት ከረድእን ንሰብ ከሕግዝን ዝያዳ ጸዓት ዘጥፍእን ብውልቁ ከጽንዕ ዘይረአን ደኣ ይንበር እምበር (ከም ኣብ ካልእ ዓውዲ ዝነበሮ ትኵርነትን ትዕድልቲን): ኣብ ትምህርቲ’ውን ጸብለልታ ስለ ዝነበሮ: ብዝለዓለ ነጥቢ ተመሪቑ። ድሕሪ መመረቕታኡ ኣብ ኣብ ሚኒስትሪ መሬት፡ ማይን ኣከባቢን ክሰርሕ ድሕሪ ምጽናሕ ድማ ኣብ ዶባዊ ኲናት ኤርትሮ-ኢትዮጵያ ከቲቱ ኣብ ኣሃዱ ሃንደሳ ተመዲቡ ክሳብ ግዜ ማእሰርቱ የገልግል ነይሩ።

Amanuel Asrat2

ዋናኣሰናዳኢ ኣማኑኤል ኣስራት

ኣማኑኤል ኣስራት ዋና ኣሰናዳኢ ናይታ ብለካቲት 1999 ዝጀመረት ጋዜጣ ዘመን ኰይኑ: ናብ ሰንበት ዕለት 23 መስከረም 2001 ኣብ ዘውግሐ ንግሆ ካብ ገዛኡ ብኣባላት ጸጥታ ምስ ተወስደ ክሳብ ሎሚ ኣብ ቤት-ማእሰርቲ ዒራዒሮ ከም ዘሎ ዳሕረዎት በብወገኖም ዝፈለቑ ክሳብ ሕጂ ወጺኦም ዘለዉ ዝደሓሩ ሓበሬታት የመልክቱ። ምእሳር ኣማኑኤል ምስ ምዕጻው ብሕታውያን ጋዜጣታትን ምእሳር ኣሰናዳእተንን ዝተሓሓዝ ምዃኑ ርዱእ ኰይኑ: ምስ ብጾቱ ጋዜጣኛታት: ኣድማ ምሕሳም መግቢ ገይሮም ክሳብ ዝግዕዙ: ኣብ ቀዳማይ መደበር ፖሊስ ኣስመራ ንውሑድ እዋናት ጸኒሑ ነይሩ።Continue reading

(First published in PEN International; Dec. 10, 2015)

 

Even though I believe I am in a secure space, I feel eternally tied to my home country. Each day I am reminded of being out of place. Carrying the badge of “legal alien” or “asylee” – not to mention the acute lack of familiarity and sense of belonging – I keep telling myself that I have a better home waiting for me, perhaps somewhere else.

But with every change of address, city and zip code, the concept of “home” also becomes more fluid. Now “home” has been reduced to my mailing address. Although exile guarantees security and safety, as a writer I’ve found that it does not necessarily present the best opportunity to produce better work.

The new space is a source of disillusionment. The new freedom to write and the sudden abolishing of the censorship yoke, might give momentary high, but for me it remains characterised by estrangement. Click here to read the whole article published in PEN International.

(First published in Africa is A Country; June 9, 2015)

Having lived all my life in Eritrea, I left the country in January 2012. Some European countries have recently claimed the situation in Eritrea has improved in order to justify accepting less Eritrean refugees. I wanted to share my firsthand experience of what daily life is like in Eritrea – a country with the highest ratio of imprisoned journalists that does not allow international media. Yesterday, a new report from the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea said “It is not law that rules Eritreans – but fear.”

Article-photo2-2-1-600x460

National ceremonies to distract from a grim reality

Eritrea is a country engaged in continuous cycles of ceremonies. The Independence Day celebration (May 24) goes on for about ten days in which the whole country shuts down and the media continuously broadcast footage of the armed struggle. It is followed by Martyr’s Day (June 20) and then a ten days long National Festival. After the festival comes the Commemoration of the Armed Struggle (September 1). Those nationalistic holidays are coupled with Christian and Muslim holidays; all are broadcast live on the national TV station. Click here to continue reading the article from Africa is A Country.

(Taken from Voice of America by Salem Solomon; June 12, 2016)

Although they are gone from view, their colleagues, friends and family want to make sure they are not forgotten. At a recent event in Alexandria, Virginia titled “Memory for Forgetfulness,” Eritreans shared stories about the journalists and advocated for their release.Continue reading

450fence

(First published in Arteidolia; March 2016)

Why jail a poet?” asks Randee Silv as she discusses the case of Qatari poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami, who had been targeted by the tyrannical rule of his country. [Fortunately the poet was later released.]

Why do tyrants jail poets? The answer is simple: they can’t stand any deviation from their prescribed world outlook. Characteristically, all dictatorial regimes become increasingly intolerant of any sound, image or phrase that reveals even the slightest hint of defiance.

Let me elaborate on this in the context of Eritrea, my homeland.

To set the scene: Eritrea is listed as the last country (No. 180) on Reporters Without Borders’ 2015 World Press Freedom Index and the most censored country on the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s 2015 list. It “is the least connected country on earth”; only 1 percent of Eritreans have access to the Internet (and even then, with a very slow dial-up connection). In addition, Eritrea is the “worst jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa,” and the world’s worst abuser of due process” according to CPJ. Many journalists have been incarcerated incommunicado for more than 14 years.Continue reading

(First published in Africa is A Country; Sept. 24, 2015)

Michela photo

Borderlines (2015) is Michela Wrong’s debut novel. Taking the perspective of a British narrator named Paula, it tells the tale of a newly-independent fictitious African nation named North Darrar, which relapses into border conflict with its neighbour. Although the country is never mentioned, Wrong’s North Darrar looks very much like the real African nation of Eritrea. The story very much seems like a fictionalized account of events and anecdotes that took place in Eritrea in the last decade, events which Wrong has written extensively on in other publications.Continue reading

(ኣብ መርበብ ሓበሬታ ፐን ኤርትራ ካብ ዝተሓትመ)

ቶግራፍን ተንቀሳቓሲን ስእሊ ኤርትራ ክለዓል መለቀብታ ቅጽል ዘየድልዮ ስዩም ጸሃየ፡ ኣብ 1952 ካብታ 12 ቈልዑ ዝፈረየት ስድራቤት ኣቶ ጸሃየ ወልደማርያምን ወ/ሮ ሮማ ሰሎሞንን ኣብ ትዅል ተወሊዱ። ኣብ ትዅል ደኣ ይወለድ እምበር፡ ኣብ ከባቢ ጸጸራት ኣስመራ ክዓቢ ከሎ፡ ትምህርቱ’ውን ኣብ ኣስመር’ዩ ተኸተቲሉ። እዛ ብዙሓት ቈልዑ ዝወለደት ስድራ ማዕረ ብዝሒ ዝፈረየቶም ደቂ’ያ ንቓልሲ ናጽነት ኣሰሊፋ። ስዩም ዝርከቦም ሸሞንተ ደቂ ንገድሊ ተሰሊፎም፣ እስቲፋኖስ ዝተባህለ ኣባል እዛ ስድራ ንስለ ናጽነት ኣብ ዝተኻየደ ቃልሲ ክስዋእ ከሎ፡ እቶም ሸውዓተ ግን ብሰላም ተመሊሶም። ኣደ ስዩም ወይዘሮ ሮማ እውን ብተመሳሳሊ ኣብ ኣስር ደቀን ብምጽናዕ፡ ሓፋሽ-ውድብ ኰይነን ንነዊሕ ዓመታት ሰሪሐን። ስድራቤት ጸሃየ ወልደማርያም ደሓን ደረጃ መነባብሮ ስለ ዝነበሮም (ኣብ ኣስመራ ከባቢ መዓስከር ቃኘው እትርከብ ሲማፎሮ ዘላ ባር ዳኦስታ’ውን ዋንነታ ናይዛ ስድራ’ያ)፡ ስዩም ናብ ዝሓሸ ቤት ትምህርቲ ክለኣኽ ኣኽኢሉዎ።

(ምስ ስዩም ጸሃየ ውልቃዊ ሌላ ኣይነበረናን፣ ኣብዚ ዝጠቕሶ ሓበሬታ ግን ሓያሎ መጋድልቱ ዝነበሩ’ሞ ስሞም ክዕቀበሎም ካብ ዝሓተቱ ወይ ድማ ቤተሰቡ ዝትረኸበ ሓበሬታ’ዩ።)

Seyoum Tsehaye2

ስዩም ተመሃራይ ኣላይንስ ፍራንስ ብምንባሩ፡ ብዘይካ’ቲ ምልከት ቋንቋታት ፈረንሳይ፡ ጣልያንን እንግሊዘኛን ኣብ ባህሪ’ውን ካብ ብዙሓት መዛንኡ ዝተፈልየ ጽልዋ ከም ዝነበሮ መሳቱኡ ይምስክሩ። ስዩም ፈለማ ኣብ ኣስመራ ትምህርቱ ድሕሪ ምክትታል፡ ናብ ኣዲስ-ኣበባ ብምኻድ ኣብ ፍረንች-ኮለጅ ትምህርቱ ቀጸለ’ሞ ድሕሪ ምውዳኡ ድማ መምህር ቋንቋ ፈረንሳይ ኰይኑ ንሓደ ዓመት ኣብ ኣስመራ ሰርሐ። ሕጂ’ውን ኣብ ኣስመራ ዝነበረ እብኡብ ህይወት ክጸሮ ስለ ዘይክኣለን በቲ-በቲ’ውን ምስ ቃልሲ መስመር ስለ ዝጸንሖን ድማ ኣብ 1977 ናብ ቃልሲ ወጸ።

ድሕሪ ታዕሊም ስዩም ናብ ኣሃዱ ሃንደሳ’ዩ ተመዲቡ። ሓያሎ መጋድልቱ ዘዘንትዉዋን ስዩም ባዕሉ’ውን ቀጻሊ ዝጠቕሳ ዝነበረትን ዘይትርሳዕ ግዜ ኣብ ኣሃዱ ሃንደሳ ተመዲቡ ኣብ ዝነበረሉ ፈለማ ዓመታት ቃልሲ’ዩ። እታ ጋንታ ሃንደሳ ንጸላኢ ኣብ ዝቐርብ ድፋዓት ቅድመ-ግንባር (ምናልባት ከባቢ ግንባር ከረን) ተፈልያ ነዊሕ ጸኒሓ። ኣብታ ጋንታ ዝርአ ዝነበረ መለሳ-ኣልቦ ህይወትን ኣንጻር ምሁራን ዝቐንዐ መልክዑ ዝሓዘ ኣጠማምታን’ውን ንብዙሕ ክገልጽ ዝኽእል ይመስለኒ። ስዩም እቲ “ደርቢ ምስባር” ዝብል ኣካይዳ ስለ ዘይኣመነሉ ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ፡ ኣብ ቃልሲ ዝህሉዎ ኣሉታዊ ጽልዋ ከም ዝዓቢ ስለ ዝተገንዘበ፡ ብሸዓኡ’ዩ ኣንጻሩ ደው ኢሉ። እታ ጋንታ ምስ ካልኦት ኣሃዱታት ኣብ ዘይትራኸበሉ ሓዲግ ቦታ ብምዃናን ብተዛማዲ ስራሓ’ውን ኣብ ቀጻሊ ወተሃደራዊ ንጥፈታት ትሳተፍ ብዘይ ምንባራ፡ ኣብ መንጎ ኣባላት ዝህሉ ምጥምማት ዝዓበየ ስራሕ ኰነ።Continue reading

(First published in Agenda for International Development Oct. 23, 2015)

PEN Eritrea\

A man reading the newspaper at the caravanserraglio in Asmara. Photo: © Andrea Moroni.

 

Eritrea has increasingly being known as a place of repression and tragedies in the global media, especially after the Lampadusa shipwreck disaster in October 2013. Some have dubbed the country “Africa’s North Korea” for its worst human rights record among nations, while Eritrean local refer to it as a place “where it is only safe to talk about football.”Continue reading

 

(First published in Arteidolia; June 2016)

yonaton1

Predictably, Eritrea has hit the bottom list (#180), two years in row, in World Press Freedom Index in a report compiled by Reporters Without Borders. Compounding to the absolute information control and monotonous recycling of propaganda are centralization of the arts or abating independent artists through ubiquitous censorship. Enough has been written about the media and centralization of information; therefore, I will share my firsthand account of how the body of arts and censorship operate.Continue reading