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Posts tagged ‘Eritrea’

Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama.

Image: Report: US Press Freedom Declines Under Obama

By Melissa Clyne

Freedom of the press in the United States has plunged during the Obama administration, according to the 2014 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

“The U.S. under President Obama, who once promised to run the ‘most transparent’ administration in the country’s history, fell from 32nd to 46th in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index, a drop of 13 slots,” The Washington Times reports.

The report reviews the state of media freedoms in 180 countries. Major declines occurred in the United States, the Central African Republic, and Guatemala, while marked improvements took place in Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa, according to the index compiled by the press advocacy group.

Finland, the Netherlands, and Norway continue to lead the index for press freedoms and government openness, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea “continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions.” Syria also ranked near the bottom.

The rating was based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure, according to Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

“It makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions,” Deloire said in a statement.

The report cited the handling of three events as major contributors to the declining rating for reporter freedoms the United States, according to The Washington Times.

• Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosure of top secret information related to U.S. spying programs;

• Army Pvt. Bradley Manning’s leak of classified documents to WikiLeaks;

• The Justice Department’s handling of a probe of The Associated Press and other media organizations suspected of receiving leaked data.

Freedom of the press is increasingly under siege as governments around the globe are targeting journalists — to get to their sources and those people who leak sensitive information, according to the report.

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Nigeria’s Retrogressive Anti-Gay Law By Abiodun Ladepo.

By Abiodun Ladepo

This past Wednesday, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan elevated crassness and primitiveness to the highest level imaginable by signing into law a bill banning homosexuality in Nigeria.  I deliberately crafted the previous sentence so unambiguously.  He did not just ban homosexual marriage; he banned homosexuality as a whole!  Perhaps if the law had only stopped at “persons who enter into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commit an offence and are each liable on conviction to a term of 14 years in prison,” one might not feel so much outrage.  But it went on to state that “any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in prison”!  In essence, only heterosexuals are allowed to hold hands in public, sit on each other’s lap, hump each other while dancing in clubs or kiss publicly.  What, in the name of God, just happened to Nigeria?

Let me state upfront that I am a Straight (heterosexual) guy who is happily married to a beautiful woman.  So, this write-up is not about me or my sexual preference.  It is about Nigeria’s lack of originality and lack of creative instincts.  We the people, along with our leaders, fail to do the deep thinking, the due diligence, in many respects that will take our country farther and more quickly than we have hitherto done.  Lethargy is irredeemably ingrained in our psyche.  Otherwise, how does being openly gay draw our country back?  We already have thousands of gay people in our midst!  How does their gayness prevent those of us who are not gay from going about our businesses?

This law assumes that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community just arrived in Nigeria yesterday.  No, the LGBT has been with us since, at least, when I was a young boy over 50 years ago.  I recall growing up in (yes) Zaria, Kaduna State, of all places, and going to watch evening dances of members of the LGBT.  We used to call them “Dandaudu.”  We, the kids, used to marvel at their public display of amorous acts.  This was in the early 60s.  They were not hidden behind the walls of any clubs in the middle of the night; they danced in open spaces and in early evenings.  I have also personally witnessed “Dandaudus” doing their dances in Bukuru, Jos, Bauchi and Maiduguri in the 70s.  And if you lived in the hostel during your secondary school years, don’t tell me that you did not catch a few of your guy friends “doing it.”  I have heard from some of my secondary school female friends of the sexual trysts that went on in their hostel.  Let’s not even talk about what happens in the dorms of our universities.  So, why are we just now finding out that their presence in our midst is anathema and antithetical to our moral fiber?

Reuben Abati, that formerly celebrated anti-bad government champion, who is now a turncoat and who I now detest with so much passion, defended the law with the pedestrian argument that since 90 percent of Nigerians were opposed to same-sex marriage, “…the law is in line with our cultural and religious beliefs.”   Ninety percent?  First, how did we come up with that percentage?  When did we poll the country to ascertain that 90 percent of our people oppose same-sex marriage?  And even if they do, what right does the majority have to trample on the basic right of the minority – the fundamental human right to freedom of association?  What right does the majority have to deprive the minority of having sex with whomever it wants as long as it is consensual?  The worst that the Nigerian government should have been able to do should have been the denial of official recognition of such a union. But to criminalize it is akin to despotism, especially in a democratic dispensation.

And by the way, since when has this government or any past Nigerian government taken a decision in favor of an issue perceived to have received the support of the majority of Nigerians?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the removal or Stella Oduah as Aviation minister, Diezani Madueke as Petroleum minister and Reuben Abati as adviser?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the banning of government officials, especially the President, from seeking medical attention abroad until our medical facilities and personnel are of the same standard as those they use when they go abroad?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the supply of 24/7 uninterrupted electricity to all corners of Nigeria?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support the revamping, rejuvenating and reinvigorating of the EFCC so it can better fight corruption?  Don’t 90 percent of our people support a massive overhaul of our educational infrastructures from elementary all the way to university systems?  Don’t 90 percent of our people oppose the blocking of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by mega-churches and mega-mosques?  Have our lawmakers crafted any laws that criminalize the failure by government to do the things mentioned above?  No.  But these nosey people are eager to get into the bedrooms of Nigerians.

I find this homophobic inclination that is so rampant in our country as yet another example of religious zealotry and self-righteousness that have been the bane of our society.  Everybody is stampeding and trampling each other today in their quest to out-do one another as they condemn homosexuality.  But we will find out one day – tomorrow maybe –  just as we have found out in Europe and America that even family members of influential government officials can be (and are indeed) gay!  In fact, we will soon find out that membership in the LGBT community cuts across all spectra of our society – from the ranks of elected politicians, to traditional rulers, military officers, police officers, teachers, technocrats, pastors, imams, babalawos, traders and what not.  And what are we going to do when we find out that one of these influential people whom we had thought was heterosexual was indeed bisexual?  Would we throw OBJ or IBB or GEJ or Mama Iyabo or Dame Patience or any of their children into 14 years of prison terms if any of them turns out to be gay? What would we do when we discover that Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye or his wife, Folu do engage in homosexual acts (with other partners, of course)?  What about Sheik Muhammad Yahaya Sanni and his many wives?  Are we going to give them immunity against prosecution?

This is why I stated earlier that our leaders did not subject this law to a rigorous and intellectual discuss before allowing their emotion, religion and communal bandwagon mentality to overtake their sense of reason.  Before the bill was adopted by the Senate in 2011, a few Nigerian members of the LGBT community, supported by some civil rights activists, appeared before the Senate to argue against enacting such a law.  The lawmakers and religious zealots in the chambers of the Senate booed and heckled these gay folks till they cried and left in disgrace.  Among the booing and heckling crowd were men who maintain two, three, four or more wives – wives who are subjugated, mentally and are physically abused.  Among this crowd were women who cheat on their husbands with their pastors and imams to the extent of making babies out-of-wedlock while their husbands thought the babies were theirs.  These people, in my opinion, lack the moral right to tell a gay man or woman whom to love and whom to cavort with in public.

Believe me, gays are the least of Nigeria’s problems.  Graft in high places, greed in high places, hired assassination, kidnapping, murder, armed robbery, neglect of rural areas, neglect of urban areas, lack of functioning basic amenities like electricity, water, hospitals, education, transportation, youth unemployment – all take precedence over what my neighbor is doing in his/her bedroom.  I am ashamed that my leaders do not see this.

And I get it. I get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  Even if I wonder how truly religious we are when we watch our religious leaders steal from the religious houses and sexually abuse the laity; even if I sometimes wonder why our religious leaders live in obscene opulence while they watch their followers wallow in abject poverty, I still get the fact that Nigeria is a deeply religious country.  It is the reason why an issue such as gay rights should have been thoroughly debated intellectually.  I hope the passing of this primitive and retrogressive law begins the rigorous discussion of how we allow members of the LGBT to bask in their rightful sense of belonging.  We should lead Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia out of the comity of nations still wedded to the archaic tradition of segregating their own people on the basis of sexual preferences.

We should join South Africa, Zaire, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Mali (yes, Chad, Niger and Mali), Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau in the comity of nations that embrace the diversity of their people’s sexual preferences and have legislated to protect the rights of their LGBT people.

By Abiodun Ladepo

Los Angeles, California, USA


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

Report Claims 30,000 Eritreans Kidnapped in 6 Years.

Asmara, Eritrea.
Asmara, Eritrea. (Carsten ten Brink/Flickr/Creative Commons)

A report presented to the European Parliament shows that around 30,000 Eritreans have been kidnapped since 2007 and taken to the Sinai while ransom payments are demanded.

The report, conducted by an Eritrean human rights activist and professors from a Dutch University, says that a total of around $600 million (€468m) was extorted from families. During its launch in London on Dec. 4, it was confirmed that Christians were among the thousands kidnapped.

Eritrea is ranked 10th on the 2013 World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which Christians are most under pressure for their faith. According to Eritrea’s Evangelical Alliance, approximately 1,200 Christians are now incarcerated in Eritrea.

After 366 refugees died in early October off the coast of Lampedusa in Italy, where they had been attempting to find refuge, Father Mussie Zerai, Chairman of the Habeshia Agency, which works on behalf of these migrants, told World Watch Monitor the majority of those involved in the shipwreck were Christians.

“I look at the list of the survivors and 90 percent is Christian,” he said. “They are coming from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The situation is very bad because politically in Eritrea there is a dictator and they live without any type of freedom or democracy. Many Christians are persecuted because of their faith. It’s not easy for them to live in Eritrea at this moment.”

The report says that Eritrea’s Border Surveillance Unit (BSU) and Sudanese Security officials are among the “actors” collaborating with the gangs that hold people hostage in Sinai.

The Eritrean military was also blamed for abducting young people and forcing them to join the National Youth Service, while the Eritrean government came under fire for its inability to protect its citizens.

However, speaking to BBC’s Focus on Africa, Eritrean Ambassador to the U.K., Tesfamicael Gerahtu, denied the allegations, citing a conspiracy between Eritrean asylum seekers and the West. He said the Eritrean government was doing its best to deal with the criminals.

One case which highlights the human trafficking journey from Eritrea to Egypt was movingly presented at the report’s launch.

Dawit, a British citizen from Eritrea, said that his sister, a single mother, was kidnapped on her way to work on July 12.

He said that when she did not come home after work, her eldest daughter went to her office, but found no sign of her and was told by locals that the business had not opened that day.

The next day, Dawit received a call from his mother in Eritrea telling him that she had received a call from someone in Sudan saying that his sister had been kidnapped and demanding $10,000 for her release.

Dawit told the gathering that he had no money at the time and that his mother didn’t want her son in London to call the kidnappers in case they increased the ransom upon realizing that a family member lived and worked in the U.K.

Dawit said that he was unable to raise the sufficient funds, whereupon his sister was tortured. He said that his mother received phone calls, during which his sister was raped and her mother was forced to sister to her screams. With her mother still on the phone, the kidnappers also electrocuted her and threatened to kill her unless the ransom could be paid.

Eventually, Dawit was able to raise the money by selling his car and borrowing money. The ransom was then paid, but the kidnappers failed to release his sister despite their promises to do so.

Dawit’s sister was eventually said to have been released to the Egyptian authorities, but he has since heard no word from her. He says that his sister’s ordeal shows that the Eritrea government cannot protect its citizens.

Dawit’s efforts to get the U.K. government’s help in securing his sister failed. However, Stop Sinai Torture activists reported that they have since held meetings with the U.K.’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and there is a strong move to gather evidence and to prosecute the perpetrators.

Selam Kidane, a human rights activist, said that the average amount demanded by kidnappers has increased over the years from $5000 in 2009 to $30,000 today. Kidane said that even those who were released were severely traumatized.

The report claims that those released in Egypt and Israel were generally opposed to returning home, but were forced to return and, in Egypt, were ordered to pay a repatriation fee.

Meanwhile, the report claims those released in Libya are often detained, tortured, raped and forced to work for free.


Africa News In Brief: Economic Stagnation For Many Africans, While Billionaires Thrive.

By Global Information Network (GIN)

Oct. 8 (GIN) – Africa has 55 billionaires at a time when the number of Africans living in extreme poverty has risen over the past three decades, according to the World Bank, from 205 million to 414 million.

Three of the billionaires are women – the mother of Kenya’s president, a daughter of Angola’s president and a Nigerian oil tycoon and fashion designer. The richest man is Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, with a fortune of $20 billion, according to the Nigeria-based Ventures financial magazine.

The number – 55 – is more than three times the figure in the U.S. magazine Forbes last year. Dozens more billionaires were identified by using “on-the-ground knowledge” to overcome hurdles that may have “hampered” other researchers, Ventures said.

The magazine estimated the billionaires’ combined fortunes at $143.88 billion, an average of a $2.6 billion per person.

Of the 55, 20 are Nigerian, nine are South African and eight are Egyptian, Ventures said.

A report earlier this month by research group Afrobarometer suggested that economic growth in Africa was primarily benefiting a small elite.

Afrobarometer, a research partnership of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development and the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, measures public attitudes on economic, political and social matters in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Afrobarometer, one in five Africans still suffer from frequent shortages of food, water, medical care and cash, or what researchers refer to as “lived poverty”.

The accumulation of wealth has been helped by the impunity long enjoyed by public officials. However in Liberia, an anti-corruption commission is pursuing top officials who may have illegally benefited.

Under investigation is a former deputy at the Ministry of Public Works who deposited US $305,590.00 into three separate bank accounts outside of his official salary of L$14,137.50.One official declared more than $300,000 in the bank despite earning a monthly salary of just $2,500. A police official earning $704 per month could not explain a one-time deposit of $33,855.

Last week, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that with more than a billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 per day, extreme poverty was “the defining moral issue of our time.”

Speaking at George Washington University, he said: “Share prosperity with the bottom 40 percent, and share it with future generations. We have an opportunity to bend the arc of history and commit ourselves to do something that other generations have only dreamed of.” His speech can be heard at 
Desmond Tutu Turns 82, Keeps Hope Alive For Peace

Oct. 8 (GIN) – Outspoken peace advocate, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, marked his 82 birthday Monday amidst well-wishers including former U.N. chief Kofi Annan who delivered the third annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the University of the Western Cape.

Annan called on Africans to embrace all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or economic status. He urged religious leaders to speak up on these issues.

“There is a crucial role here for Africa’s religious leaders in promoting tolerance, understanding of our common humanity.  We need them at every opportunity to denounce violence, discrimination, increments on the grounds of gender and sexuality perhaps above all, they must welcome the freedoms of all of these not just their own,” said Annan.

Tutu referred to the strife in Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo as he introduced the former UN secretary general. “Can you imagine what it must be like for God… looking down (and) saying those are my children in Syria, those using chemical weapons are my children, those dying are my children.”

Bandile Masuku, spokesman for the ANC’s Youth League said in a statement: “We are happy for our grandfather who has always stood in defense of human rights and equality for all. We wish him a happy birthday full of happiness and joy”. Tutu, an active user of social media, disseminates his messages through Twitter, Huffington Post, and via livestream audio.

Clement Mokone, among the many online well-wishers, wrote: “Here is a man I can peacefully eat a piece of chicken, gravy and pap with and be happy. Happy birth day Des. May God keep more for the sake of our country!! We love You.

In Political Shuffle, New President Is Named In Ethiopia

Oct. 8 (GIN) – Former diplomat Mulatu Teshome was sworn in this week for a six-year term as president – a largely symbolic and ceremonial post.

Real power rests in the hands of the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn.

Mulatu, a 57-year-old economist, was Ethiopia’s ambassador to Turkey until his appointment. He replaces 88-year old Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who served from 2001 until now. It was widely reported last year that the heavy-set Girma was dead of a heart attack and acute diabetes. However in September 2013, he was quoted in the media wishing the country a happy New Year and pardoning 458 inmates in a New Year amnesty.

“I feel honored to be the fourth president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,” Mulatu said after taking the oath of office. Mulatu, often referred to by his first name, has also served as ambassador to China and Japan and was Ethiopia’s minister of agriculture.

Meanwhile, news of the tragic deaths at sea of close to 300 mostly Eritrean, Somali and some Ethiopian refugees near Lampedusa, Italy, has shaken people of the Horn of Africa and in the Diaspora. Some 500 refugees were attempting to make the sea crossing when the boat capsized.

The incident has put the European Union’s refugee policy under fire. Some rights groups say there’s no way refugees can legally enter the bloc.

Sheila B. Keetharuth, the U.N. special rapporteur on Eritrea, said: “The alarming human rights situation in Eritrea is triggering a constant stream of refugees to neighboring countries and far beyond. People continue to flee despite the extreme dangers along escape routes.”

An online petition by the Eritrean diasporic community calls on the government to bring the bodies back from Italy for burial in Eritrea.

It reads in part: “Every Eritrean death has a story, every victim has a mother, a sister, a father, brother or wife mourning. Let these families in grief know that we all care and suffer with them as a nation. This tragedy should be faced together as a people.”

Organizers are hoping for 5,000 signatures. The petition can be found at w/pix of Pres. M. Teshome

Surprise U.S. Raids To Seize Terror Suspects Worry Experts

Oct. 8 (GIN) – After two surprise U.S. raids, one into Somalia and one into Libya to capture suspected terrorists, the Libyan government is demanding an explanation of the unannounced manoeuvre.

In the Libyan operation, U.S. special forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, a.k.a Abu Anas al-Liby – a Libyan who is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians. He is reportedly being held on a U.S. ship for questioning.

Speaking to reporters, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said cautiously: “Our relationship with the USA is important, and we care about that, but we care too about our citizens, which is our duty.” Libyans who commit crimes should be tried at home, he said.

Despite the high praise for U.S. Navy SEALS by Secretary of State John Kerry, experts see the prospect of “blowback” from the two weekend raids.

In the Somalia operation, US Navy commandos from SEAL Team Six attempting to kidnap the terror suspect, found his beachside villa well defended. A firefight ensued and the SEALS were repulsed.

Militant groups have responded furiously, using social media to call for revenge assaults on strategic targets including gas pipelines and ships. They have also called for the kidnappings of Americans in the capital.

Anticipating such threats, the U.S. will move about 200 Marines to a U.S. base at Sigonella, Italy from one in Spain in the next day or so to respond to any crises that may ensue.

The mixed success of the raids prompted Frank Gardner, BBC security specialist to ask: ”How effective in the long run are raids like the ones in Libya and Somalia?

While the US insists that the detention of this long-sought suspect is “lawful” and will be popular back home, in North Africa the raid could well prompt more recruits to join anti-Western jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

“When the most highly trained commandos from the most powerful military in the world attack a sandal-wearing militia and are forced to retreat, this will be seized on as a propaganda victory for al-Shabab,” Gardner wrote for the BBC.

While the U.S. has no extradition treaty with Libya, there are other legal avenues to have used before the snatch and render method employed,” observed Vijay Prasad, co-editor of Dispatches from the Arab Spring and author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. “There is no indication that the U.S.  ever asked the Libyans to extradite the suspect, nor that the U.S. informed the Libyans of this operation. It is a major setback to Libyan efforts to create transitional justice, and once more calls into question the U.S. commitment to a rules and regulations society.”


African Migrants Risk Lives to Flee War, Persecution.

African migrants killed
At least 232 migrants were killed after their boat caught fire last week. Hundreds more are still missing. (Noborder network/Flickr/Creative Commons)

The latest tragic incident of hundreds of African migrants drowning in European waters tells a wider story.

Scratch beneath the surface and for many of the migrants, their stories are not only of wanting a better life. Often they will be of fleeing persecution or conflict at home, and paying their life savings to smugglers who promise their passage to the safety of European shores.

The sinking of a boat carrying around 500 migrants Thursday, killing at least 232 of them, is the latest in a long line of accidents in which vulnerable migrants pay with their lives after the failure of vessels often described as “unseaworthy.”

Father Mussie Zerai, chairman of the Habeshia Agency, which works on behalf of these migrants, says he believes the majority of those involved in last’s week’s shipwreck were Christians.

“I look at the list of the survivors and 90 percent is Christian,” he said. “They are coming from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The situation is very bad because politically in Eritrea there is a dictator and they live without any type of freedom or democracy. Many Christians are persecuted because of their faith. It’s not easy for them to live in Eritrea at this moment.”

An Ethiopian migrant who survived the same crossing hit the European media last year when five human rights groups wrote a letter to the Netherlands then-minister of immigration and asylum affairs, to plead for him to be given the right to remain.

Abu Kurke Kebato, in his early 20s, was one of only nine survivors in a boat carrying 72, which had left Libya, only to languish at sea for two weeks before drifting back to Libyan shores.

Kurke Kebato told the BBC that he had then been arrested by the Libyan authorities while “on his way to church” after his arrival back in Libya.

“Upon his forced return to Libya in 2010, Mr. Kurke Kebato was then detained for eight months during which time he alleges he was subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” wrote the five human rights organizations.

He then made a second attempt to reach Europe, with his wife, and this time they were successful. However, the couple were set to be deported from the Netherlands until human rights organizations intervened. He now lives there and says he is “happy in a democracy.”

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees’ Adrian Edwards agrees that many migrants seem to have little choice but to flee their home countries when it becomes a matter of life and death.

“You have to think of the tragedy that lies behind this, which is that many of these people are likely to have been fleeing war, fleeing persecution, fleeing human rights abuses in their own countries, so this is a tremendous tragedy of multiple layers,” he told the BBC.

The ship had traveled from Libya, but many of its passengers had already traveled a great distance in their quest to reach Europe. According to the U.N., most of the passengers on the boat—which sank nearby the island of Lampedusa off the coast of Italy—were from Eritrea and Somalia, about 2,000 miles from Libya’s coast.

The number of immigrants dying while attempting to reach Europe’s borders in the last 25 years has risen to almost 20,000.

Pope Francis, whose first official visit was to the island in July to witness the mass migrant arrivals, condemned “global indifference” to the plight of immigrants, and said the incident was an “outrage,” calling Friday a “day of tears.”

Figures from the U.N. say 3,000 people try to flee Eritrea each month, while human rights groups have said the country is becoming a giant jail, with estimates of around 10,000 political prisoners.

Somalia, meanwhile, has been ravaged by two decades of war and large parts of it are under the control of Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

More than 30,000 immigrants have journeyed to Italy by sea so far this year, including 7,500 each from Eritrea and Syria and 3,000 from Somalia, according to the U.N.

Zerai says the international community must do more. Granting asylum to a few is not enough, he says.

“All mass media, all international organizations and civic society need to push the international community to do something to change the situation,” he told World Watch Monitor. “In Eritrea, even in Ethiopia, we need more freedom, democracy and peace. That is the solution. We can give them asylum, but that is not the solution.”

In May, World Watch Monitor reported that religious persecution in Eritrea is at its “highest ever level and getting worse,” according to Christian charity Open Doors International.

The number of Christians incarcerated in Eritrea because of their faith is thought to be around 1,200, according to the charity, although some estimates claim the figure is as high as 3,000.

Eritrea is ranked 10th on the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which Christians are most under pressure for their faith.

“When Christians [in Eritrea] are discovered, they are arrested and held in shipping containers in military camps. At least 105 Christians were arrested in 2012, and 31 Christians were reported to have died in prison,” the World Watch List reports.


World Watch Monitor

Christians Tortured For Their Faith In The Sinai.

JERUSALEM, Israel — From the West Coast of Africa to the deserts of Sinai, Bedouin tribes are conducting a human trafficking trade on a massive scale. It’s no secret. The trade reaps millions of dollars and deals with human misery. It could be stopped but so far no one has dared.

“By that time I had lost sense (sensation) in both my hands,” an Eritrean torture victim told CBN News. “It was a result of the accumulated torture but mainly because (both) of my wrists were tied up so tightly, (and I was) hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands.”

Torture in the Sinai

This man is just one victim of this widespread modern-day slavery, kidnapping, and torture trade in the Sinai desert. There are many pictures and videos of this horrible practice on the Internet.

christian-persecution-in-middle-east-eritreans-sinai-july-2013For this story, this Christian man from the African country of Eritrea is going by “Philip,” but that’s not his real name. CBN News covered his identity for his protection.

“In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians,” he told us, his chest trembling slightly as he spoke.

“Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago — even a bit more — it started also to be a place of human torture,” Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News.

Shorham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors, like Philip, made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented.

“They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies,” Shorham said.

Kidnapped for Ransom

This story begins in Eritrea, where many like Philip fled from its brutal dictatorship. He traveled to a United Nations refugee camp in Sudan. There he was kidnapped by a Bedouin tribe.

They transferred him — along with many others — through Sudan, Egypt, and all the way to the Sinai desert and their torture camps.

What happens next in these camps is diabolical.

“What they make you do is call your family and ask them for the money,” Philip explained. “Usually they will do the asking. They will say, ‘Either send this money or your brother will die or your father will die or your son will die.’ It depends on whoever is picking up the phone.”

“While you’re talking to your family they would pour molten plastic on your body so that you would scream and perhaps they thought that would persuade your family to pay or collect the money faster,” he said.

The tribesmen demand what for most poor Eritrean families is a king’s ransom.

“The ransom fees can go up to $40,000 for an individual and even $50,000, and until the ransom fees (are) paid, the people will not be released,” Shoham explained. The financial burden on the families is devastating.”

Killing a Soul

Sister Azziza is a Catholic nun from Eritrea who is based in Jerusalem. She has interviewed many of the Sinai survivors.

“People are destroyed physically (and) psychologically because of what they know they did to their family, how they are living,” Sister Azziza told CBN News.

But many do not make it out alive.

“We estimate that around 4,000 people died in the Sinai, some of them from torture,” Shoham said. Many who were with Philip died.

“We couldn’t help them; that was the most horrible thing,” he recalled. “Some you know. You have experienced some of the harshest treatment in this world and yet they’re dying and you couldn’t do anything to help them. That was horrible.”

Hanged Like Christ

Yet the torture and the dying go on. CBN News talked with a 35-year-old Eritrean woman named Segen. She is five month’s pregnant.

Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean human rights activist living in Sweden, arranged our conversation. The kidnappers give them cell phones so they can call their family and friends. We talked via Skype, linking Sweden, Jerusalem, and the Sinai.

It was sobering. You could hear the strain in Segen’s voice.

“They are asking for money every minute and they hit us and they put us — they will make us lie down on the floor and you know their feet would be up and they would hit their feet and melt with melted plastic bags,” Estefanos said.

“And so that way they cannot stand because they will torture their feet, and every day they hang them the way they hang Jesus Christ,” she said.

“What does she mean when they hang them like Jesus Christ?” CBN News asked.

“They hang us the way He was hanged and they take off their clothes. While they are naked they will hang them. And they will just hit them with big bats like all day for hours,” she said.

No Secret to the World

Many of the Etritreans, like Segen and Philip, are Christians. Many don’t survive.

“There are around 7,000 that went through these torture camps and 4,000 that died.  Those are huge numbers and I don’t think that the world needs to keep quiet about that,” Shoham said.

Philip miraculously survived and made it to Israel where he received life-saving medical treatment.

The location of these torture camps is no secret. ”Their location and whereabouts is known already by many high officials,” human rights activist Majed El Shafie told CBN News.

“The only way out of this problem is for the international society or the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release the victims, to stop these human traffickers,” he said.

Shafie believes some of the American financial aid to Egypt could be used — with conditions — to help these victims.

“Every American listening to us right now — not only Americans but anybody in the world — can make a difference,” he said.

“You can contact your congressman. You can contact your senator. You can show them that you care about these issues,” he said. ”If you send an email, or fax or make a telephone call, he can save a life.”source – CBN

by NTEB News Desk

Persecution Greater Than Ever and ‘Getting Worse’ in Eritrea.

Eritrean home
A home in Eritrea. (World Watch Monitor)

Religious persecution in Eritrea is at its “highest level ever and getting worse,” an Eritrean Christian leader, who cannot be named for security reasons, has told the Christian charity Open Doors International.

Thirty-seven Christian students from the College of Arts and Social Sciences in the town of Adi Kihe, and five men from the Church of the Living God in Asmara, were arrested last week, taking the total number of Christians known to have been arrested this year to 191.

Open Doors, a ministry to Christians who live under pressure because of their faith, estimates around 1,200 Christians are now incarcerated in Eritrea. However, some estimates claim the figure to be as high as 3,000.

Churches in Eritrea have been monitored closely since May 2002, when the government closed all Protestant and Pentecostal churches which did not apply for registration with the department of Religious affairs.

Eleven years later, there is evidence of widespread human rights abuses by the Eritrean government, according to human rights organization, Amnesty International.

“Twenty years on from the euphoric celebrations of independence, Eritrea is one of the most repressive, secretive and inaccessible countries in the world,” Amnesty International’s Eritrea Researcher, Claire Beston, told the BBC.

In its latest report this month, Amnesty International reported evidence of “arbitrary arrest and detention without trial on a vast scale to crush all actual and suspected opposition, to silence government critics and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the restrictions on human rights imposed by the government.”

The government of Eritrea rejected the report as “wild accusations” and “totally unsubstantiated.” However, Selam Kidane, an Eritrean expatriate and Director of Release Eritrea, a U.K.-based human rights organization, told World Watch Monitor there had been an “intensification” of religious persecution since January.

“We can’t pin it down to anything that has happened, or triggered it, but there have been lots of arrests,” she said.

Kidane said the Eritrean government is following the leaders of illegal underground churches to gather information and make arrests.

And while religious persecution in Eritrea is not limited to Christians, Kidane said the underground Christian church has suffered most.

“Any religion that’s not willing to come under the control of the government is being persecuted,” she said. “It’s not just confined to Christians. But in terms of being completely banned, it’s the minority churches that have suffered the most—the Pentecostal Church, the Evangelical Church—they are ones that have been stigmatized and been accused of all sorts of things by their communities and by other faith groups.”

Almost half the population of Eritrea is Christian. Nearly nine out of 10 Christians belong to the Orthodox Church, while almost all the rest are Catholic or Protestant.

Eritrea is ranked 10th on the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries in which Christians are most under pressure for their faith.

“When Christians [in Eritrea] are discovered, they are arrested and held in shipping containers in military camps. At least 105 Christians were arrested in 2012, and 31 Christians were reported to have died in prison,” the World Watch List reports.



Persecuted Christian Dies in Eritrean Prison.

shipping container prison cell
Shipping containers like this one are typically used as a makeshift prison cell, usually for Christians (Courtesy Open Doors)

Another Christian has died while in detention in Eritrea, Open Doors learned last week.

This report follows several others in recent months. Sources reporting the death indicated that about 45 other believers are held in horrendous circumstances in dungeon-like cells at Ala. They are enduring severe military punishment because they are unwilling to stop their Protestant religious practices.

Open Doors also received reports that indicate the government’s continuation of an extensive arrest campaign against Christians, which started at the beginning of the year. This month, the government conducted sweeping arrests of 125 Christians in Barentu.

Of the most recently reported deaths, Belay Gebrezgi Tekabo, whose age is unknown, died at Ala Military Camp, about 20 miles from the southern Eritrean town of Dekemhare. He was arrested last April in the military training camp for “praying and reading his Bible.”

Belay endured severe military punishment during his incarceration for his continued religious activities. He was diagnosed with leukemia six months prior to his death, but officials told him he could only go to the Dekemhare hospital for treatment if he was willing to sign a recantation statement.

On Saturday, March 16, police officers arrested 17 Christians in Keren while they were together at the home of one of those arrested. The group included six female students. They are kept at the Keren Police Station. Although it is customary for family members to take food to relatives in prisons, officers are not allowing anyone to visit this group.

In 2002, the Eritrean government banned all Christian denominations except the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Lutheranism. With the exception of Sunni Islam, all other religious practice was banned.

The government also decreed that non-registered groups could not gather in numbers of more than five. No new churches have been registered since 2002. Security forces continue to disrupt private worship, conduct mass arrests at prayer meetings and other gatherings, and detain those arrested for indefinite periods without charge.

At last estimates, at least 3,000 Christians are imprisoned in Eritrea and, say Voice of the Martyrs sources, nearly every evangelical has been arrested at least once. Most are never formally charged and never receive a court hearing. Prisoners are tortured and subjected to extremely poor living conditions, often locked in metal shipping containers or underground bunkers. Several have died in custody.

Pray that those who’ve been arrested would remain steady in their faith in Christ. Many have fled across the borders, but pray for boldness for those Christians remaining in Eritrea.


Totalitarian Government of Eritrea Beats, Detains 125 Christians.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki
Eritrea, sometimes referred to as the “North Korea of Africa,” has been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki, seen here at a press conference in December 2002, since the country gained independence in 1993

Over the past week, 125 Christians have been beaten and detained in Eritrea.

“Police arrested these church members from homes and workplaces during broad daylight and then marched them through town to the police station while beating them,” an investigator for Open Doors reported to Worthy News.

Among the 125 Christians, 45 men and women were arrested on Feb. 27 for worshiping outside highly regulated government-approved churches in Eritrea. According to Worthy News, all of the 125 individuals detained were members of an evangelical denomination located in the southwestern town of Barentu.

Worthy News has reported that the Eritrean government has denied any wrongdoing in regard to the arrests.

Eritrea, sometimes referred to as the “North Korea of Africa,” has been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki and his Popular Front for Democracy and Justice Party since the country gained independence in 1993. Since taking power, the Afwerki regime has instituted a totalitarian government that seeks to control all aspects of life in Eritrea, including the religious practices of its citizens.

“Being a Christian in Eritrea is like living in hell,” a source inside Eritrea told International Christian Concern. “Christians are treated like enemy No. 1.”

Paranoid about losing power, the Afwerki regime targets any religious activity conducted outside highly regulated government churches. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “Systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations continue in Eritrea. These violations include: torture, sometimes resulting in death, arbitrary detention and prolonged bans on religious activities.”

It is estimated that more than 2,000 Christians remain imprisoned in Eritrea. As ICC’s source in Eritrea can attest by personal experience, the conditions these prisoners are exposed to are among the most inhumane conditions in the world. Afwerki has stated that his restrictive policies on religion are aimed at groups that have been “duped by foreigners [and] are seeking to distract from the unity of the Eritrean people.”

ICC Regional Manager for Africa William Stark said, “Christians in Eritrea continue to be rounded up and arbitrarily imprisoned by the increasingly repressive government. The prison conditions these Christians are exposed to defy all international human rights standards. Prisoners have testified to being locked in tiny, pitch black cells for months on end, tortured, starved and constantly abused, both mentally and physically, by prison guards.

“It is estimated that at least 200,000 refugees have fled Eritrea because of its repressive policies,” he continued. “Many of these refugees expose themselves to extreme dangers to escape Eritrea, including being summarily executed by border guards and becoming prime targets for human traffickers operating in East Africa. By allowing these blatant human rights abuses to take place, the international community has allowed Eritrean Christians to become a forgotten people that can be beaten, detained and killed at the whim of a paranoid government.”


Unrest reported in small, closed Africa nation of Eritrea; soldiers flood information ministry.

JOHANNESBURG – An author who writes about the small nation of Eritrea says soldiers took control of the country’s Ministry of Information and read a statement on air saying the 1997 constitution would be applied.

Léonard Vincent, author of the book “The Eritreans” and co-founder of a Paris-based Eritrean radio station, says more than 100 soldiers took control of the ministry Monday morning.

Vincent said that the daughter of Eritrea’s president is among ministry officials being controlled by the soldiers. Vincent stopped short of calling it a coup d’etat and said it’s not yet clear if the action is a well-organized coup attempt or what he called a “kamikaze crash.”

Vincent said his information came from a ministry source and information gathered by Eritrean journalists working at the radio station he co-founded.

 Source: YAHOO NEWS.
By The Associated Press | Associated Press

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