The Eritrean government’s official website disclosed on Saturday that Colonel Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser had died on February 2nd “following his recent sickness” and that he would be buried in the “Martyr’s Cemetery” on Sunday. The government passed its condolences to “the family members and friends”. Now, family members are saying that his death is a mystery and that the government had denied their request for an autopsy, according to Aljazeera (Arabic website).
Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser, a veteran combatant who joined the Eritrean revolution for independence in 1975, worked for the National Security Office. His family says that he was in good health and he had been seen publicly on January 24 in the televised celebration of Mewlid Al Nebi, which is often attended by government and party officials.
The government report does not have any details on his illness other than to say that he had been “under intensive medical care” and had been hospitalized.
While it is impossible to ascertain which version of the story is correct, the following facts are relevant:
1. The government’s decision to bury him in the “Martyr’s Cemetery” does not mean anything. As we disclosed in the “Martyr’s Database” which we published following the 1998-2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, it is very common for the government to name as “martyrs” even soldiers that it had executed. It can also deny the honor of “martyr’s cemetery” even to Eritreans with long contribution to the revolution, as was the case with Taha Mohammed Nur, who died in prison in Eritrea.
2. There are no norms, nor consistency, in the government’s decision to disclose or fail to publicize the death of the veterans of Eritrea’s revolution. The regime waited for days to publish the death of Ali Said Abdella, and it is yet to publish the death of Naizghi Kflu, who was buried in England after it denied burial rights to his family.
3. The announcement of the death of Colonel Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser and the decision to bury him the next day seems highly expedited, in relationship to the death and burial of other government officials.
4. Following an uprising by members of the Eritrean Defense Force to lay seige on the Ministry of Information on January 21, the regime has arrested many government officials, including senior members of the ruling party and the government. As part of its attempt to deny Eritreans the right to information, it is blocking Aljazeera broadcasts to Eritrea.
5. Following every “mysterious” death–or assassination attempts– the regime always promises to conduct an investigation and disclose the results–and it never does.
inform. inspire. embolden. reconcile.