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Sheikh Hassen Died After Seven Years In Detention

Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim Salem, the previous head of the Department of the Muslim Endowments for Massawa, and later for Semhar region, died at Sembel hospital.

He was brought from prison to the hospital in bad health only two days before he died on Wednesday September 24, 2014.

Sheikh Hassen was detained in 2007 after he returned from Saudi Arabia and was kept in prison for seven years without charges.

In 2007, Sheik Hassen traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise funds for the expansion of the Massawa Islamic elementary school to provide middle school education.

Sheikh Hassen met exiled residents of Massawa and appealed to them for funds to help maintain the endowment that served the people of the Semhar region for many decades. He had raised considerable amount of money.

Shortly upon his return, security officers arrested and tortured Sheikh Hassen to reveal the names of those who donated money for the maintenance of the Massawa endowment institutions.


Throughout the history of the port city, the people of Massawa financed their community activities but during the last few decades most the inhabitants of Massawa left the port city fleeing wars and oppression to many parts of the world. A large number of them reside in Saudi Arabia.

Before the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, the endowments committee of Semhar applied for a plot of land to build an elementary school and were granted approval by Wedi Andu, the then mayor of Massawa. But soon Wedi Andu told the committee that President Isaias Afwerki had personally ordered him to withdraw the permit.

The committee appealed to the then-minister of local administration Mahmoud Sheriffo (arrested with the “G15” in 2001), who reversed the decision and allowed them to continue building the school.

The Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah financed the project with $239,000; an exiled philanthropist from Massawa provided the shortage of 1 million Nakfa to finish it.

At a later stage, the committee planned to add a middle school and Shiekh Hassen traveled to Saudi Arabia to raise funds for the expansion project.

Shortly after his return to Eritrea, Sheikh Hassen  was taken away by security officers who confiscated the funds he collected. He was immediately taken to prison and stayed there for seven years.

A few months ago, Eritreans discovered that the much respected octogenarian Ahmed Sheikh Feres (Gedab News, Sept. 7, 2014) had died in prison four years ago and that his death had been kept secret by the government. Sheikh Hassen was Sheikh Ahmed Feres’ jail mate in a prison camp around Afa’abet and he was accused of leaking the information and tortured. His health deteriorated and he was brought to Sembel hospital where he died.

Sheikh Hassen’s wife had died while her husband of many years was in prison.

Muslims in Eritrea face difficulties in raising funds for their institutions because the government links any of their fundraising activities to “international terrorism.” No Muslim institution is allowed to raise funds outside of the control of the government or without its approval.

Sheikh Hassen was born in 1943 in Massawa to a family of merchants who is known for its charitable work including digging of water wells, building mosques and feeding the poor.

The Ad-Salem store in Htmlo was a clandestine supply center during Eritrea’s struggle for self determination and provided food, clothing and other supplies.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • said

    ( Inna Lillahi wa Inna ilaihi Rajioon, ) (we belong to Allah and to Him we should return) another fatherly elder man and a common good doors passed way horribly , to Allah what He gave, to Allah what He took, and may Allah Taala grant him Janat Alfirdous,Amen, May Allah strengthen everyone in the family to bear the unbearably loss.

  • Mohammed Ahmed

    Look at the fatherly face of the deceased for a moment – take your time and stare at the eyes – the smiling innocent face – and then try to remember the deference you used to show for the elders in the areas where you grew up – a natural deference that wouldn’t even let you address them with their first names without prefixing them with nouns like “Aboy ekele” or “Am fulan”. It wasn’t that far back.

    Look again, and then close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine how the deceased senior would have looked like after seven years of agonizing torture which led to his eventual death – just ponder of what he would have looked like.

    Remember, unlike the bigots, the thugs and the fascists – you are still you – uncorrupted by the passage of time. The sense of community in you would dictate that somebody torturing and murdering the elders you showed so much deference to while growing up is akin to somebody doing the same thing to your own parents. You wouldn’t allow that, would you? It is a question we all ought to ask ourselves – and act upon if the beleaguered nation is ever to be salvaged.

    May Allah have mercy on the deceased, Sheikh Hassan and may
    he reward him for his good deeds and sacrifices.

    الله ىرحم الفقىد وىحسن الىه
    وانا لله وانا الىه راجعون

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Very sad we are unable to rescue our prisoners and are dying in their prison cells. Rest in peace “Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim Salem” and full strength to the family.

    • Shum

      I don’t advocate armed resistance in Eritrea. But if we have armed groups, why are they not engaging in freeing our people from prison?

  • Abraham Hanibal

    Yet another fatality at the hands of the cruel Isayas-PFDJ. May Sheik Hassan, Allah yarhamu, rest in peace! And may his family and community find the strength to stand for his cause!

  • haileTG

    Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim Salem, RIP and may you be rewarded in heaven.

  • Hope

    May he R.I.P and condolence to his Family
    We are just sick tired of this unherad of things—
    -the Youth is fleeing and dying in the Deserts and Seas
    -the elderly,the heros and heroins are dying in the prisons.
    —-then what next?
    After I read Dr Andebrhan’s book…..,well, the worst may come.–that the whole Eritrea and Eritrea might die,and yet,we are fighting among ourselves and cursing the culprit in the Cyberspace.with NO tangible strategy and measure.
    SHAME on US….
    I was upset with Redie’ Mehari and with his controversial book but now—I am upset with myself and and cursing my own slef…

    • Kokhob Selam


      ኣይገርምን ? Hope ተስፋ ናተይ :-

      ሰብ ሲ ኣብ ሃገሩ ክቢሩ ይነብር እሞ ዓብዩን ሸምጊሉን ናብ ‘ታ ናይ ኩልና ዓዲ ክጎዓዝ እንከሎ ድማ ብኣገባ ይቅበር እምበር :- ገለ ኣብ ስደት ሞይታ ሓመድ ዓዳ ትስእን ገለ ድማ ኣብ ማእሰርቲ ሓቂቃ ሞታ ‘ውን ሞታን ቀብራን ከይተፈልጠ ዝነብረላ ዓድስ እንታይ ዓይነት ዓዲ እያ ::

      ዳሕራይ እዚ ጉጅለ :-
      ሸኹ ቀሹ :- ዓቢ ንእሽትኡ :- ሰባኣዩ ሰበይቱ :- ምሁር ዘይምሁሩ :- ሓረስታዩ ሰርሕትኝኡ : ኮታ ሃገር ብሃገራ ከበሳብስን ብዘይ ስርዓትን ሕግን ኣብ ልዕሊና ክሻንድ ምፍቃድ ሲ ካብ ሞትን ውርደትን እንታይ ይፍለ ? ምንባር ትርጉሙስ ኣበይ ኣሎ ? ኣይናይ ክብሪ – ባህልን – ልምድን ይፍቅደልና ትም ኢልና ክንሪኦ ? እዞም ዝድግፉ ኸ እንታይ ዓይነት ልብን ኣእምሮን እዩ ዘለዎም ? ኣይገርምን?

      • Abraham Hanibal

        To those who support the regime in Eritrea; Isayas = them and the people of Eritrea. Everything that Isayas says and does is sacred; and cannot be questioned. If he says something was false yesterday, and claims that same thing is true the next day; they would apploud him and accept it without question.
        I have really a difficulty to understand the mental situation of these people. What is wrong with them that they sold their conscience and their God given free thinking and judgement to the dictator? And by the way, how would they survive the day after the dictator dies for whatever reason. Would there be any Eritrea and Eritreans for them after the death of Isayas?