(Published in Index on Censorship Magazine; Spring 2017 issue)

Over the last four years, the international media have dubbed Eritrea “North Korea of Africa,” mainly due to their striking similarities when it comes to being closed, repressive states blocked to international media. When a satirical website run by exiled Eritrean journalists cleverly manipulated the simile, the site stoked a social media buzz among the Eritrean diaspora.

Awaze Tribune launched its publication in June 2016 with three news stories including “North Korean Ambassador to UN: ‘Stop Calling Eritrea the North Korea of Africa.’”

The story reports that the North Korean ambassador to the U.N., Sin Son-ho, has briefed the press corps and warned them to stop calling Eritrea “North Korea of Africa.” He complains that it’s insulting for his advanced, prosperous, nuclear-armed nation to be compared to Eritrea, with its, “senile idiot leader” who “hasn’t even been able to complete the Adi Halo dam.”

With apparent little concern over its authenticity, Eritreans in the diaspora began widely sharing the news story, sparking a flurry of discussion on social media and accumulating 36,600 hits.

On the intensely politicized and polarized Eritrean diaspora online platforms, the opposition camp shared it widely to underline the dismal incompetence of the Eritrean government. The pro-government camp countered by alleging that Ethiopia must be involved behind the scenes. Some moderately well-read websites in the opposition camp shared the link as worth reading, though none of them disclosed or acknowledged that it was satirical. Similarly, it was tweeted and re-tweeted many times, including by some pro-Ethiopia handles.

For the average discerning reader, the satirical nature of the new website seemed obvious. The satire begins with the name, “Awaze,” a hot sauce common in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisines. If readers were not alerted by the name, there were plenty of other tip-offs. For example, on the same day, two similar news articles were posted: “Eritrea and South Sudan Sign Agreement to Set an Imaginary Airline” and “Brexit Vote Signals Eritrea to Go Ahead With Its Long-Planned Referendum.” Read the article from Index on Censorship.


ክትምዕድን ክትምህርን ናይ ምድላይ ክቱር ድሌት ዝስዕርር ዘሎ መሲሉ ተሰሚዑኒ ነይሩ። ዳሕራይ ሕስብ ምስ ኣበልኩዎ ግን ሕጂ ደኣ ብናጻ ዕድላት ማሕበራዊ መራኸቢታት ተሓጊዙ ዝተጋነነ መሲሉ እምበር ካብ ቀደሙስ እኹል መንጸፍ ጸኒሑዎ’ዩ። ንውሰድ እንዶ…

…ሙሳ ኣሮን ኣብ መቕድም ቀዳመይቲ ልብ-ወለዱ ወርቅሃ  “እቲ ጽሑፍ ነቶም ክቡራንን ሕፉራንን መምሃሪ እምበር᎓ መጻወቲ” ከም ዘይኰነ ኣመልኪቱ ኣሎ። ሙሳ ኣሮን ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ ኵሎም ናይ ሽዑ ጸሓፍቲ ልብ-ወለድ ንዕኡ ዝመስል ማዕዳን መጠቀቕታን’ዮም ዝህቡ ነይሮም። በቲ መጠኑ ዝሓለፈ “ክትምህር ናይ ምድላይ ጽቡቕ ድሌት” ዝተናደደ በየነ ሃይለ ድማ ኣብ ዓቢዱ’ዶ ትብልዎ? (1965) ᎓ “እዚ ጽሑፍ ክምህር ወይ ክግስጽ ቢለ ኣይጸሓፍኩዎን” ኢሉ ኣቐሚጡ። ምናልባት ግን ኣብ ኤርትራ ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ ኣብ ብዙሓት ዘመናዊ ስነ-ጽሑፍ ደንጉዩ ዝጀመረን ሃገራት ጸሓፍቲ ልብ-ወለድ ነገርቲ ዛንታ ጥራይ ዘይኰነስ መምሃራን እንኮላይ’ዮም። ንዝያዳ “The Novelist as Teacher” ዝብል ጽሑፍ ቺንዋ ኣቸበ ምውካስ ይከኣል።

[ናይ መምሃራን ካብ ተላዕለ ብዘይካ ኣብ ኤርትራ “መምህር” ካብ ሞያ ሓሊፉ ናብ መዓርግ ዝቕይረሉ ሕብረተሰብ’ሲ ኣሎ’ዶኾን?]

ኣብ ዘልዕሎ ኣብነታት ሓቀኛ ኣስማት ኣይክጠቅስን’የ።

ኣብ ፈለማ 2000 ኣቢላ ኣብ ኤርትራ “ዝረዓመት” መጽሓፍ᎓ ኣብ መቕድማ᎓ “እገሊት ጓለይ ‘ባባ ንህዝቢ ኤርትራ በጃኻ ምሃሮ᎓’ ኢላ ኣምሪራ ተላብያትኒ’የ ዝጽሕፍ ዘለኹ” ዝብል ኣለዎ።

እቶም “ብሩህ መጻኢ” (እንታይ ምዃኑ እንድዒ) ክህሉዎም እንደልዮም ህጻናት ኤርትራ እንተስ ኣቦይ ንዋዩ ወይ ኣቦይ ባጃይን ኣማኢት መሰልቶምን ተማዒዶም ክስንብሩ ቍሩብ’ዩ ተሪፉዎም። እዛ ንሓደ ጨሓምን ጭራ ነስነስ እናበለን ንምዝራብ ዝጽገም ወሓለ ሰብኣይ ቅዲ መበቈላ ኣበይ ምዃና ኣይፈልጥን። ኣብ ዝበዝሕ ናይ ተዋስኦን ምዕዶን ኣጋጣሚታት ግን ካብተን ኣዝየን ዝውቱራት ኣገባባት’ያ።

ምርኢት መጽሓፍቲ ኤርትራ ጽቡቕ ተበግሶ ደኣ ይዅን እምበር᎓ “ነንብብ ክንዕንብብ” እትብል መዝሙር ናይቲ ኣጋጣሚ ክሰምዕ ከለኹ ወትሩ እዝነይ እዃዅየኒ ነይሩ።

ካብተን ሓደ ሓድሽ ስራሕ ኣዝያ ኣገዳሲት ምዃና እንጥቀመላ ዝውትርቲ ኣገባብ ኣወዓውዓ᎓ “መሃሪትን ኣዘናጋዒትን” ተዋስኦ᎓ መጽሓፍ᎓ ፊልም ምዃና ምንጋር’ዩ። ክመዓድ ኢሉ ናብ ሲነማ ከፊሉ ዝኸይድ’ሲ ከመይ ከመይ’ዩ?

መስፍን ገብረሂወት ቀደም ተመሃራይ ካልኣይ ደረጃ ከለኹ ደጋጊመ ዘንብባ ዝነበርኩ ናይ ዋዛታት መጽሓፍ ኣላቶ። ኣርእስታ? እናሰሓቕና ንመሃር። ዳሕራይ ቍሩብ ምስ ጐበዝኩ እታ ኣርእስታ ተሕስበኒ፣ ሰብ ስሒቑ ጥራይ እንተኸደስ እንታይ ሓጢኣት ኮን ነይሩዎ? ስለምንታይ’ከ ካብ ነፍሲ-ወከፍ ዋዛ ትምህርቲ ክቕስም ዝድለ?Continue reading


(Published in Carnegie Council of Ethics for International Affairs; March 22, 2017)

 ©Jason Florio - all rights reserved. Eritrean migrants in a sinking boat.May 2, 2015. A boat carrying 369 mainly Eritrean migrants, 45 km off the Libyan coast. The bilge pump was blocked and water was pouring in. Everyone was evacuated safely to a rescue boat and taken to Sicily. ©Jason Florio – all rights reserved.

By 2015, the UN estimated that 5,000 Eritreans were leaving their homeland every month. Eritreans trying to escape their repressive country are well aware of the perilous journey in front of them, facing obstacles at every step. It is only when—to borrow poet Abdellatif Laâbi‘s line—the fear of living replaces the fear of dying, that they decide to go.

Nobody has high hopes for a regime that has been accused of committing “crimes against humanity.” However, what’s both startling and troubling is the complicity of the international community in these crimes—the African Union, European Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and other UN organizations. They are guilty of everything from ineffectual silence to outright collaboration.

Despite the fact that Eritrea is among the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), most of the Declaration’s articles are routinely ignored in today’s Eritrea.

Freedom of movement in the country is tightly controlled through required pass-papers, countless checkpoints, and frequent military round-ups. After the age of six, Eritreans can’t travel out of the country legally except under extraordinary circumstances. Leaving with permission involves a convoluted process controlled by the Office of the President; this includes all government employees up to the level of ministers.

Yet, it is relatively easy for married women to leave the country. As a result, in the last few years many young Eritrean women have settled in Uganda and other African countries, mainly because they don’t dare to risk staying behind until their children reach the crucial age of six. Their husbands must find ways to join them later, taking all kinds of risks and paying high amounts of money to smugglers. To cross the tightly secured border illegally, some pay as high as $6,000 to be smuggled out of the country, to cross overland into the Sudan and Ethiopia or to sail to Yemen. Yet this high price does not guarantee safety. Click here to read the original article.

“ስራሕና ቦምባ ምትኳስ’ዩ ኣበይ ከም ዝዓልብን ንመን ከም ዝሃርምን ንዓና ዝምልከት ኣይኰነን፣ ንሱ ናይ ካልእ ክፍሊ ስራሕ’ዩ።”

እዘን ከም መእተዊ ተጠቒመለን ዘለኹ ሕደማ ናይ ሓንቲ ደርፊ ኰይነን ኣብ ሓንቲ መጽሓፍ ካብ ዘንብበን ልዕሊ 10 ዓመት ሓሊፉ፣ ገና ክርስዐን ኣይከኣልኩን᎓ ስም ደራፊ ስለ ዘይሓዝኩ ከኣ ተመሊሰ ከስተማቕራ ኣይከኣልኩን። ተደጋጋሚ ሓላፍነት ዝጐደሎ ስራሕ ጎፍ ክብለኒ ከሎ ግን እዘን መስመራት ህሩግ ይብላኒ። ስሙ ዘይሓዝኩዎ ደራፊ ነቲ ኣብ እዋን ዝሑል ኲናት ዝነበረ ወጥሪ ኒክለሳዊ ኣጽዋር–ናይ ገለ መራሕቲ ሸለልትነት ከስዕቦ ዝኽእል ሃስያ–ንምግላጽ ዝደረፎ’ዩ። እታ ደርፊ ከም እተርእዮ᎓ ኣዘንታዊ ምስቶም ቦምባ ዝትኵሱ ክፍሊ ኰይኑ ስራሑ ነታ ቦምባ ምትኳስ እምበር ኣበይ ከም እትዓልብን ንመን ከም እትሃርምን ግን ንኻልእ ክፍሊ ዝምልከት ምዃኑ ይሕብር። እቶም ካልእ ክፍሊ᎓ ምናልባት’ውን ነታ ቦምባ ተመሊሳ ኣብ ልዕሊኡ ከም እትወድቕ ገይሮም ከነጻጽሩዋ ይኽእሉ’ዮም፣ እዚ ግን ንዓኡ ዝገድሶ ኣይኰነን።

(መእተዊስ እንተ ሓጸረ’ዩ ጽቡቕ፣ ክሰግር)

ሰፊሕ ቃለ-መሕተት ኣቦይ ሃብተማርያም ኣብርሃ ዘበገሶ ናይ ማሕበራዊ መራኸቢታትን ረድዮን ምልልስ ዘንቀሎ ሓሳብ’ዩ። ኣጋጣሚ ኰይኑ ብዝለዓለ ጥርዚ–ናይ ኣማኑኤል ኢያሱ ናይ ረድዮ መልሰ-መጥቃዕቲ–ምስ ሰማዕኩ’የ ተመሊሰ ነቲ ቅድሚኡ ዝነበረ ምልልስ ተኸታቲለዮ።

ኣቦይ ሃብተማርያም ልዑልን ትኵርን ዝኽሪ ከም ዘለዎም ዘጠራጥር የብሉን፣ ምስ ዕብየት ዕድመ᎓ ንውሓት ግዜን በበይኑ ምዕባለታትን ከኣ ምስኡ ተኣሳሲሩ ዝመጽእ ናይ እርጋን ምትሕውዋስ ዝኽሪን ንምፍላጥ ኣየጸግምን። ኣፋዊ ዛንታ እናተደጋገመ ምስ ከደ መበቈሎን ርጡብነትን ብዘየገድስ “ሓቂ” እናመሰለ’ዩ ዝመጽእ። ኣብዚ ናይ ኣቦይ ሃብተማርያም ኣጋጣሚ’ውን ነዊሕ ስደትን ጽምዋ ዝወለዶ ምጽርራብ ናይቲ ዝኽሪን ናብ ሓደ መስርዑ ዝሓለወ ዛንታ ንኽሰፍዩዎ ኣኽኢሉዎም። ኣብ ርእሲ’ቲ ርኡይ ኵርናዕ ኣጠማምታ᎓ እቲ ዝዝርዝሩዎ ዛንታታት ኣዝዩ ተኣፋፊን ምስጢራዊን ስለ ዝዀነ᎓ ብማዕዶ ተዓዛቢ ኴንካ ጥራይ ደምዳሚ መልሲ ክትህበሉ ዝከኣል ኣይኰነን። ካብ ዕላሎም ንጹር ከም ዝዀነ ከኣ ኣብቲ ኣዝዩ ተኣፋፊ ዛንታታት ናይ ማዕዶ ተዓዛቢ ጥራይ’ዮም ነይሮም። ንውሓት ዕድመ᎓ ምድብላቕ ዝኽሪ᎓ ነዊሕ ዝተዓቝረ ነድሪ ከስዕቦ ዝኽእል ምዝባዕ ሓበሬታ እምበኣር ምዝርዛሩ’ውን ኣየድልን። ኣብ ከምኡ መደምደምታ ንዝበጽሕ ሰማዒ’ውን ግድን ጌጋ ወይ ዝተጋነነ ስእሊ ክህቦ’ዩ። Continue reading

(Published in Africa is A Country; March 6, 2017)

Eritrea has expelled all international correspondents and banned local private newspapers since 2001. One consequence is that Western media have had to play up their “unique” or “rare” access to “the North Korea of Africa.”

Over the last two years, some leading media–having gone through endless bureaucratic hassles and rejections–such as the BBC, France 24,  The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times  have covered Eritrea. Some independent journalists have (dis)covered Eritrea too. For many of us who lived our entire lives in the country, of course nothing is nearly revealing apart from their “sensational” stories.  (An exception was the The New Yorker’s coverage in December of a mass defection by members of the Eritrean national team.)

Reporting on Eritrea has reduced into a standard template: it starts with description of how clean and peaceful the capital city, Asmara is (there is also emphasis on its Italian colonial legacy, here reduced to architecture and café culture), inhabited by friendly people. This is usually followed by long descriptions of the palm-tree-lined streets of the capital; disproportionate part on the capital’s art-deco and futuristic buildings; some confused and contradictory notes on the overcrowded cafes (with a note of the recent mass-exodus), visits to the remnants of war tanks near Asmara (linking it with the bloody war of independence) and at last interviewing the usual suspects, media-friendly officials such as Yemane Ghebreab, the ruling party’s political affairs and presidential advisor and the minister of information, Yemane Gebremeskel. The latter two get to dole out their regular scripts of “we are in emergency state and the international community should pressure Ethiopia to demarcate the borders.” Click here to continue

(Published in Amnesty International Magazine No. 88; March 2017)

Via Google translate

Perpetual escaped

Eritrea practices the most fierce media censorship in the world. For eight years, the country has occupied the queue of Reporters Without Borders rankings after North Korea. The repression is such that even journalists working for the state media live in constant fear of being arrested. Many journalists have preferred exile to prison. Abraham is one of them.

During his studies at the University of Asmara, he worked as an independent journalist for various private newspapers, until they were banned by order of the president. “At the time, although the media was limited, we could freely express our ideas, we were not governed by terror. In 2001, everything changed. “On 18 September this year, 15 senior government officials were arrested for denouncing the dictatorial drift of the president. The newspapers that have published their opinions are closed. “My country suddenly plunged into darkness, the army was everywhere. Arbitrary detention became the norm, prisoners were held in detention without trial or indictment for years. “According to Amnesty International’s investigations, At least 10,000 people are currently detained on political grounds in 360 detention centers. According to the United Nations, 5,000 individuals leave the country each month.>Click here to read the article via translation>

(Published in Global Journalist: Project Exile; February 2nd, 2017)

In Eritrea, even being part of the East African nation’s tame state media is no protection. That was the conclusion Abraham Zere reached after years of working as a columnist for the government newspaper Hadas Erta and later for the ruling party’s magazine.

All independent media outlets in the country of 6 million were closed in 2001 amid a massive crackdown on internal dissent following the country’s disastrous two-year border-war with Ethiopia. More than a dozen prominent journalists were jailed – and to this day it’s not known how many are still alive.

But as Abraham has written, for state media workers Eritrea became a Kafka-esque world of uncertainty and seemingly random detentions by security forces.

In 2006, security forces detained 10 state media journalists who worked at the Ministry of Information without any apparent rhyme or reason–keeping some in custody for weeks. In 2009, the military raided a state educational station called Radio Bana, arresting at least 40 reporters and media workers for reasons that are still unclear. Some were held in prison until 2015.

Abraham had his own difficulties in 2009 after publishing a column in the ruling party’s Hidri magazine highlighting the disaffection of Eritrean youth. That led to an immediate rebuke from Eritrea’s powerful Minister of Information Ali Abdu (himself now an asylum seeker in Australia after fleeing in 2013) – who published his own column in the state newspaper labeling Abraham’s work “irresponsible and dangerous.” Click here to read more.

(Published in Sabotage Reviews Nov. 21, 2016)

The collection portrays the “orgasm of crime”, following themes of shattered dreams; the bond between a father behind barbed wire and his waiting family; the atrophied and docile body; and mechanisms of torture and fear. The poet, “translator of pain and humiliation”, graphically portrays physical torture and psychological torment in which victims are “skinned alive” to confess to crimes they never committed. The long, mostly unpunctuated poems are loud cries of abuses and read as hallucinatory notes. Ultimately, the form becomes the message: these poems embody bold defiance against injustice.

The poems written in prison or immediately after Laâbi’s release do not fall into conventional sound rhymes or meters: he expresses collective maltreatment through free verse, capturing the suffering that he describes as “inferno of solitude”. The poem ‘Letter to My Friends Overseas’ explains why he might deflect traditional poetic forms: Click here to read more.

(Published in online journal of African Studies Quarterly Vol. 16, Issue 3-4)

Flaws and oversights resulting from such disregard of readily available scholarly material written by Eritreans are evident throughout the text. Although the book seeks to explore modern architecture in colonial Eritrea, the author, if one did not know any better, seems to be writing about a literally empty space. It’s difficult to see how one can write about distinct buildings and their history, without mentioning the human element. The book ignores the interactions, relationships, and acts of conscription, dislocation, and nationalization of land that played such crucial roles during the Italian colonial period. By ignoring these ignominious hallmarks of Italian colonial rule, and instead gazing at the Eritrean historic spaces through the eyes of the colonizer, the book reads more like an homage to the latter.

The book uses leading scholars in the field of architecture to substantiate its theories and conclusions. It provides a thorough look at the Italian colonists’ justifications and perspectives during the early colonial period in Eritrea, through travelogues of the early settlers and diaries from colonial missions. Employing theoretical abstractions and overusing minute details at the expense of rendering a bigger picture, the book avoids any meaningful treatment of the excessive use of lethal force and brutality exercised by the Italian colonizers. Furthermore, the author, by omitting discussion of these sensitive but relevant areas and quoting texts that appear to justify the colonial occupation, exacerbates, ignores, and/or misrepresents the rarely discussed Italian colonial “color bar” (racial hierarchy). For example, the book cites a text that glosses over the Italian color bar (later infamously adopted in Apartheid South Africa), casually observing: “Sons of Europeans mingle and play freely with native boys” (p.173) Click here to read the review (pp-179-180)


ብሓቂ ድዩ ኣዛራቢ ጉዳይ ኰይኑስ ብዛዕባ ህሉዊ ተርእዮታት “ተስፋጽዮን”ን ካልኦት ብነብሰ-በታኽነት ዝሕመሉ ዘለዉ ክጽሕፍ ኢለ ደጋጊመ ሓሲበ። ኣብ መጨረሽታ ግን ኣመጻጽኣ ዶናልድ ትራምፕ፡ ኣወጻጽኣ ብሪጣንያ ካብ ኤውሮጳዊ ሕብረትን ኣፈላልቓ ሓደገኛታት መራሕቲ ዓለምና ከም እኒ ሂትለር ብዓቢኡ፣ ኢሳያስ ኣፍወርቂ ድማ ብደረጃ መዐቀኒ ብልቃጥ ዘኪረስ ሓሳባተይ ክገልጽ ተደፋፊአ።

ክቱር ነድሪ ውጽኢት ነዊሕ ዝኸደ ዓመጽ፡ መወዳእታ ዘይብሉ ቀንፈዘው ስደት (እቲ ዝኸፍአ ድማ ኣብ መዕረፊየይ በጺሐ ኣብ እትብለሉ እዋን ምዃኑ)ን “ተሓታትነት” ዘይብሉ ኣገባባት ማሕበራዊ መራኸቢታት ተደሚሩዎን ብዙሕ ሰብ (ነብሰይ ሓዊስካ) ዕርቃኑ ክወጻእ ተቐሲቡ ኣሎ። ስለዚ ድማ’ዩ፡ ሎሚ ኣብ ዓንኬላት ማሕበራዊ መራኸቢታት ኤርትራ ዝዀነ ኣቓልቦ ዝሰኣነ ብሓንቲ ለይቲ ዝና ንኽረክብ ዕድል ገይሩ። ሰማእታት ዝጸርፍ፡ ባንዴራ ዘቃጽል፡ ንቓልሲ ዘከሻምሽ… ከከም ግዜኦምን ኵነታቶምን–ንሳቶም’ውን ብዝዀነስ ይዅን ጥራይ ኣዛራቢ ኣርእስቲ ንፍጠር ብዝመስል ተበግሶ–ኣቓልቦ ንኽጥምዝዙ ባይታ ተጸሪጉሎም። ብዘይ ዝዀነ ርጡብ ሓሳባትን ብዘይካ ጥሪፍሪፍ ዝብላ ዘለፋ ንሓንቲ ደቒቕ’ውን ክኸይድ ዘይክእል ምጕት ሒዝካ ኣቓልቦ ክትስሕበሉ እትኽእል ምቹእ ሃዋሁ ስለ ዘሎ ከኣ ንብዙሓት “ኣህቢቡዎም”። እቲ ህቡብነት ግን ግድን ንሓደ ጽቡቕ ኣንፈት ኣብነት ዘይክኸውን ይኽእል’ዩ። [ንኣብነት እኳ ኣቓልቦ ክስሕቡን ኣብ መራኸቢ-ብዙሃን ክዝረበሎምን ኢሎም ጥራይ ኣብ ግብረ-ሽበራዊ መጥቃዕቲ ዝዋፈሩ መንእሰያት ኣመና ብዙሓት’ዮም። ብሕልፊ ኣብ ሃገራት ምዕራብ፡ እዚ ዝመስል ተርእዮ ብተደጋጋሚ  ኣብ ኣብያተ-ትምህርቲ ህጻናት ብምቕታል ክፍጸም ይርአ።]

ምናልባት ግን ብዝሒ ድምጺ፡ ድጋፍን በጻሕቲን ማሕበራዊ መራኸቢታት ንደረጃ ሓሳባት ዝገልጽ ዘይምዃኑ ኣከራኻሪ ኣይኰነን። ካልእስ ይትረፍ ስእሊ ሓደ ሓዊ ዝነድድ ዘሎ ቈልዓ ብምጥቃዕ፡ “ኣምላኽ ምሕረቱ ከውርደሉ ‘ኣሜን’ ጸሓፉ” ብምባል ጥራይ ልዕሊ ሚልዮን ዝኸይድ ድጋፍ ምርካብ ኣሸጋሪ ኣይከውንን።Continue reading