London, Stockholm, Washington DC and New York: these are some of the cities which are becoming the theatre of protests held by the Eritrean diaspora community in response to the suppression of the protest in Asmara, Eritrea, last week.
In the early afternoon of Tuesday 31 October, a group of young students held a rare and peaceful protest in Eritrea’s capital city Asmara, following the arrest of Mr. Hajj Musa Mohammed Nur, the 90-year-old chairman of a private Islamic school. Sources stated that people from different backgrounds also joined the protest. The rally turned violent when security forces intervened following direct orders by the Regime. Security officers started beating the participants and gun shots were also fired toward the crowd. Many videos of the event show running people, with gunshots audible. Following the protest, many have been reportedly arrested and mistreated.
In response to this, hundreds of Eritrean people in the diaspora communities all over the world are gathering, expressing their support for the protesters and denouncing the lack of freedom and safety which has existed in Eritrea for the past 26 years. The diaspora protests show the solidarity in the community, with Christians and Muslims protesting side by side. With this, the protesters say, they stand together against the religious divisions that the Eritrean government want to amplify.
In Stockholm last Saturday, around 600 people protested in front of the Swedish parliament. In London, a similar protest was held in front of the Eritrean embassy, where dozens of Eritrean people stood next to one another carrying images of both Christian and Muslim leaders. In the USA, rallies were held in Washington DC and New York. Other manifestation against the suppression of the protest and against the Eritrean regime’s human rights abuses are planned for the coming days in cities such as Frankfurt, Toronto, Berlin, The Hague and Geneva.
The events leading up to the 31 October protest in Asmara started in mid 2014 as explained by ‘Asmarino Independent’, when Eritrea’s ministry of education outlined a plan to reform and ‘upgrade’ the Eritrean school system. Part of this project involved conversion of all private schools into communally administrated and publicly financed schools. This includes religious schools. Hajj Musa Mohammed Nur, 90-year old chairman of the Al-Diaa Islamic School, publicly denounced this situation during an official meeting held on 15 October 2017, and furthermore he denounced specific decrees by the government such as the ban on headscarfs. After a few days, he was arrested by the Eritrean regime with the accusation of resisting ‘government’s directives’ for regulating the Eritrean school system.