Eritrean diaspora and refugees demonstrated in-front of at African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, at the United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva, and in Tel Aviv Israel in the past two days.
The demonstrations were called in support of the damning UN report on the Eritrean regime. The report detailed “systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity”
In Addis Ababa, over 400 Eritrean refugees demonstrated at the AU headquarters on Friday demanding the AU push for democratic reforms in Eritrea.
“I left to escape the indefinite national service, once you are enlisted in the military service, it is impossible to get out. The only way to escape is to go into exile”, Yohannes Yosief, a young Eritrean refugee who has been in Addis Ababa for five years told Agence France-Presse .
Eritrea’s only president since independence, Isaias Afeworki, has ruled his country with an iron fist earning Eritrea the tittle “The North Korea of Africa”.
There are about 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, a neighboring country the Eritrean regime claims to be a “national threat”. Estimates show that 200 Eritreans cross the border to reach Ethiopia every single day.
In Israel, hundreds of Eritrean refugees protested on Thursday in-front of the European Union delegation’s Israeli headquarters located in Ramat Gan, a suburb of the commercial capital Tel Aviv. The protesters urged action against the Eritreans regime and called for recognition as refugees by Israel.
Demonstrators railed against the assumption that Eritrean migrants were only seeking economic opportunity. “Eritreans don’t flee their home and their country because they want a better job, or a car, or a plasma TV, We flee our homes because we are born to be free and live in dignity and safety.” read a statement from the protest organizers, according to International Business Times..
According to The Times of Israel report, the protesters waved Israeli and Eritrean flags while one banner reads “In memorial of those who have been beheaded and who have drowned,” in reference to the killing of nearly 30 East Africans by ISIS this year, and the drowning of some 800 migrants in the Mediterranean in April.
In Geneva, Switzerland, thousands of Eritreans from all over Europe, the US and Canada held a big demonstration at the European Union headquarters of the United Nations.
A Sweden-based opposition figure and one of the protest organizers, Nagash Osman, told Al Jazeera that he is in Geneva to say thank you to the Human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry, which published the June 8 UN report. “It is the first time Eritreans feel that the world is finally listening to us. The findings of the report are not new to us, we already know this. But it feels like the world is starting to understand our suffering,” he said.
A pro-regime rally a day earlier this week forced Swiss police to double security for members of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea after they were threatened and intimidated by the pro-regime protesters.
Close to 5,000 Eritreans flee the the Horn of Africa nation every month trying to reach refugee camps in neighboring countries like Ethiopia while many others try to make it to Europe through deadly boat travels across the Mediterranean sea. Eritreans are the second-largest group seeking asylum in Europe next to war-torn Syria.