The Arab Spring Inspires The Eritrean Spring
Throughout the month of May, and as early as March and April, Eritrean communities throughout the world have staged peaceful rallies to mark the 20th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence by protesting against 20 years of dictatorship that Eritrea has been suffering under the un-elected regime of Isaias Afwerki and his ruling party of PFDJ.
Each Eritrean community has chosen unique ways to express its protest: some have followed the demonstration with seminars; others have chosen to reach out to members of societies whose countries are also under tyrannical rule. But there is, judging by the placards, uniformity to their demand: ENOUGH! Enough to a regime that governs a country without a constitution, without the rule of law, without democracy, and without any respect for the citizens’ human rights.
On March 25th, the Eritrean community in Great Britain held a rally in London. The demonstrators carried signs that read “20 Years Of Oppression!”, “End The Police State of Eritrea”, and “ENOUGH: Endless Military Campaigns.”
On March 26th, the Eritrean community in Australia—which has taken the initiative to co-ordinate its protests with citizens of Middle Eastern’s tyrannical regimes—held a rally and forwarded a petition signed by over 300 people to the Australian foreign minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd. The petition urged the Australian government to provide greater assistance to stranded Eritrean refugees, and pressure the Isaias Afwerki regime to comply with universal human rights.
On April 18th, the Eritrean community in the San Francisco Bay Area held a rally at the heart of the city, the intersection of Powell & Market. The theme of the demonstration was “Enough Is Enough: Isaias Must Go Now!” “ We Are With Our People”, “We Are The Voice Of The Muzzled Eritreans.” Over 200 Eritreans attended the rally.
Also on April 18th, the Eritrean community in Canada held a rally in Toronto, Canada. The protestors announced via bullhorns that Eritreans are “crying for freedom” and “crying for justice!” carried signs reading “Stop Human Trade!’ and “Enough! Time for Change!” The Eritrean community in Canada had also participated in a show of solidarity with Libyans who held a protest against the brutal regime of Moammer Qaddaffi on February 26, 2011.
On May 22nd, Eritrean youth residing in Cairo, Egypt held a rally demanding an end to the dictatorship of Isaias Afwerki and the freedom of prisoners of conscience. This would have been unthinkable during the Hosni Mubarek regime, but has been made possible thanks to the Tahrir Square Revolution. The demonstrators were Eritrean youth who reside in Egypt.
On May 24th, Eritreans in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia held rally, seminar and party organized by the Eritrean National Commission for Democratic Change to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence and to protest against the dictatorship of the PFDJ regime. The theme of the seminar, which was attended by hundreds of Eritreans, was “re-liberating Eritrea from the slavery of the PFDJ.” Speakers included: Haj Abdenur Haj and Netserab Asmelarsh, the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the preparatory committee; Abdulkader Hamed Ibrahim, Vice Chair of ENCDC; Tewelde Gebreselasse (EDA Chairman), and Daniel Tewelde and Abubaker Fretai, both members of EDA’s Media Services. This was followed by Eritrean independence celebration. The same day, Eritreans held a rally to protest against the PFDJ 20 years of dictatorship and demanding the removal of Isaias Afwerki from power.
On May 27th, Eritreans in Belgium and Switzerland held a rally to protest against the PFDJ dictatorship. In Belgium, protestors carried placards which read “Enough Is Enough”, “Kick the Dirty PFDJ Out Of Eritrea”, “The EU Must Stop Supporting The PFDJ Regime”, the demonstrators chanted “PFDJ Means Hunger…Fighting…Arrogance…Lawlessness…And Indignity!” In Switzerland, the protest was organized by The Eritrean Youth Movement, who unfurled a huge banner stating “The People Want To Overthrow The Regime” and specifying the reasons: “20 Years Of Tyranny”, “20 Years Of Injustice”, etc.
Also on May 27th, Eritreans held rallies in San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC. Organized by Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change, which has a relatively huge presence on the social media site Facebook (5000), the rallies in DC and San Francisco were attended by hundreds carried placards demanding respect for human rights, “Isaias Must Go”, and “Enough, Absolutely, Enough!”, “Game Over: Dictator Must Go” and “Enough! Time For Change”, demonstrators in DC marched to the Eritrean Embassy and demonstrators in San Francisco met at Powell & Market, the busiest intersection of the city. The event was covered by the Tigrigna edition of Voice of America.
In San Francisco, the demonstration was followed by a seminar. The keynote address was provided by Simon Woldhaimanot, and there were poetry readings by Kiros Yohannes. The session also included lively debates on the way forward to bring about change in Eritrea.
On May 28th, another demonstration was also held in Birmingham in front of a hall where the Eritrean regime’s ambassador was fundraising for his government.
On May 29th, hundreds of people gathered in Melbourne for a rally organized jointly by the Syrian, Libyan, Eritrean and Yemeni communities in Melbourne. The rally endorsed by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), Australian National Imam Council (ANIC), Federation of Australian Muslim Students & Youth (FAMSY), called for end of violence, human rights abuse and end of dictatorship in those countries.
The Eritrean community in Australia has taken the position that rallies are more effective if they are integrated with the demands of fellow sufferers of tyranny.
Protesters marched from State Library of Victoria to Federation square where several speeches were delivered. Speaker for the joint rally, Mr. Mohamed Elmasry, denounced the gross violations of human rights and that it was the duty of each person to show solidarity with victims of dictatorship in any part of the world. Other speakers included Hisham Mustafa (ICV), Mohamed Hilmy (FAMSY) & Shaikh Abdulaziem Afifi representing ANIC and the board of Imams and other community representatives.
Shaikh Abdulaziem recalled the history of those countries, including the brave struggle of Eritreans for freedom and condemned the ruling regime of Isayas Afeworki for denying Eritreans to enjoy the fruits of their struggle. Speakers from Lybian, Eritrea, Syrian and Yemeni communities also stressed the need to work together to rid their countries of dictatorship and free their people. A 10 year old Syrian girl, Sara, spoke to the crowd reminding them of the brutal killing by Syrian forces of 13-year-old boy Hamza Al-Khatib who has become a symbol of the Syrian revolution. Ustaz Saleh Hamde, ENCDC commissioner in Australia, gave a speech on behalf of Eritreans.
The demonstrations, which started in March spontaneously, are planned to carry through the rest of the year. On June 4th, for example, Eritreans in Switzerland are expected to demonstrate against the Eritrean regime, according to another very popular Facebook group “Ashab Yourid Isqat Isaias Afwerki” (The People Want Isaias Afwerki To Step Down.”)
This page will be updated to include demonstrations which may have been overlooked and/or demonstrations planned for future months. Awate.com is very proud of our highly emboldened people and will continue to publicize any and all Eritrean community activities that are targeted at bringing down the immoral regime of Isaias Afwerki.