Eritrea: 20 years and counting – the exceptional persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 3rd, 2014
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Since becoming an independent country in 1993, my country consistently and routinely harasses, imprisons, and tortures Jehovah’s Witnesses.

To date, at least 73 Jehovah’s Witnesses are in Eritrean prisons suffering harrowing conditions [1]. None have been charged or sentenced. Jehovah’s Witnesses were stripped of their citizenship and basic civil rights by presidential decree in October of 1994. However there is absolutely no legal framework how the government handles religious prisoners.

Three young men; Isaac, Negede and Paulos; were 18 and 21 year old when they were arrested in September 24, 1994. They are now in their late 30’s–early 40’s and still in prison.

I recently spoke with an ex-prisoner that spent a couple of years in Sawa prison with Jehovah’s Witnesses (including Isaac, Negede and Paulos). He told me how Jehovah’s Witnesses are subjected to special torture while in prison in order to force them to convert. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are imprisoned for conscientiously objecting to military service. My friend, the ex-prisoner, was keen to mention that in a country like Eritrea where being a citizen and being a soldier are all the same, Jehovah’s Witnesses often don’t even get sufficient support and solidarity from fellow prisoners and society at large.

Every Eritrean should be outraged when innocent members of our society are subjected to inhumane torture and indefinitely imprisoned. It is our responsibility, as human beings and as Eritreans to at least stand in solidarity and be vocal in denouncing the atrocities that are being committed in our home country.

I would like to invite you to please consider publicly showing your stand and bringing to light the suffering and the exceptional persecution Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrea by signing the pledge I have made available online here (https://www.causes.com/campaigns/82858-show-solidarity-with-persecuted-jehovahs-witnesses-eritrea).

Figure 1 Left to right: Paulos Eyassu, Isaac Mogos, and Negede Teklemariam; in-chains for their faith since September 24 1994. Photo taken sometime 1996 (photo from https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jehovahs-Witnesses-in-Sawa-Prison-Camp-in-Eritrea)

References

[1] http://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/eritrea/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/


List of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently in prison in Eritrea. None have been charged or sentenced
Name Gender Age Imprisoned since Years in Prison Age arrested Location (current) Reason

1

Paulos Eyassu

M

41

24-Sep-94

20

21

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

2

Isaac Mogos

M

38

24-Sep-94

20

18

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

3

Negede Teklemariam

M

38

24-Sep-94

20

18

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

4

Aron Abraha

M

38

9-May-01

13

25

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

5

Mussie Fessehaye

M

40

Jun-03

11

29

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

6

Ambakom Tsegezab

M

36

Feb-04

10

26

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

7

Bemnet Fessehaye

M

41

Feb-05

9

32

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

8

Henok Ghebru

M

28

Feb-05

9

19

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

9

Worede Kiros

M

55

4-May-05

9

46

Sawa Camp

Religious activity

10

Yonathan Yonas

M

26

12-Nov-05

9

17

Sawa Camp

Religious activity

11

Kibreab Fessehaye

M

34

27-Dec-05

9

25

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

12

Bereket Abraha Oqbagabir

M

44

1-Jan-06

8

36

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

13

Yosief Fessehaye

M

23

2007

7

16

Sawa Camp

Conscientious objection

14

Mogos Gebremeskel

M

66

3-Jul-08

6

60

Adi-Abieto Prison

Unknown

15

Bereket Abraha

M

65

8-Jul-08

6

59

Meitir Camp

Unknown

16

Ermias Ashgedom

M

22

11-Jul-08

6

16

Meitir Camp

Unknown

17

Habtemichael Mekonen

M

71

17-Jul-08

6

65

Meitir Camp

Unknown

18

Tareke Tesfamariam

M

61

4-Aug-08

6

55

Meitir Camp

Unknown

19

Tesfai Teklemariam

M

59

5-Aug-08

6

53

Meitir Camp

Unknown

20

Goitom Aradom

M

68

8-Aug-08

6

62

Meitir Camp

Unknown

21

Habtemichael Tesfamariam

M

64

8-Aug-08

6

58

Meitir Camp

Unknown

22

Tewoldemedhin Habtezion

M

53

9-Aug-08

6

47

Meitir Camp

Unknown

23

Yoek Tsegezab

M

36

26-Aug-08

6

30

Meitir Camp

Conscientious objection

24

Nehemiah Hagos

M

26

26-Aug-08

6

20

Meitir Camp

Conscientious objection

25

Teferi Beyene

M

71

23-Sep-08

6

65

Meitir Camp

Unknown

26

Beyene Abraham

M

60

23-Oct-08

6

54

Meitir Camp

Unknown

27

Asfaha Haile

M

78

2-Dec-08

6

72

Meitir Camp

Unknown

28

Semere Negussega

M

75

22-Dec-08

6

69

Meitir Camp

Unknown

29

Muse Paulos

M

67

23-Dec-08

6

61

Meitir Camp

Unknown

30

Tsehaye Leghesse

M

73

23-Dec-08

6

67

Meitir Camp

Unknown

31

Tsegezeab Tesfazghi

M

63

23-Dec-08

6

57

Meitir Camp

Unknown

32

Tsehaye Tesfamariam

M

71

5-Jan-09

5

66

Meitir Camp

Unknown

33

Yoab Tecle

M

61

23-Apr-09

5

56

Meitir Camp

Rearrested

34

Samuel Ghirmay

M

30

Mar-09

5

25

Meitir Camp

Conscientious objection

35

Teklu Gebrehiwot

M

37

28-Jun-09

5

32

Meitir Camp

Religious meeting

36

Isaias Afeworki

M

27

28-Jun-09

5

22

Meitir Camp

Religious meeting

37

 Milen

F

22

28-Jun-09

5

17

Meitir Camp

Religious meeting

38

Faiza Seid

F

27

28-Jun-09

5

22

Meitir Camp

Religious meeting

39

Yodit Mekonnen

F

30

28-Jun-09

5

25

Keren Police Station, Keren

Religious meeting

40

Tesfazion Gebremichael

M

70

20-Jul-11

3

67

5th Police Station, Asmara

Unknown

41

Hagos Woldemichael

M

60

21-Apr-12

2

58

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

42

Araia Ghebremariam

M

58

21-Apr-12

2

56

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

43

Tsegabirhan Berhe

M

49

21-Apr-12

2

47

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

44

Daniel Meharizghi

M

35

21-Apr-12

2

33

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

45

Amharai Osman

M

21-Apr-12

2

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

46

Yoseph Tesfamariam

M

48

21-Apr-12

2

46

Meitir Camp

Religious activity

47

Wogahta Dawit

F

4-Jul-13

1

6th Police Station, Asmara

Religious activity

48

Finan Kidane

F

4-Jul-13

1

6th Police Station, Asmara

Religious activity

49

Gebru Berhane

M

14-Apr-14

3rd Police Station, Asmara

Religious meeting

50

Tekle Gebrehiwot

M

14-Apr-14

3rd Police Station, Asmara

Religious meeting

51

Tesfai Kiflai

M

14-Apr-14

5th Police Station, Asmara

Religious meeting

52

Tirhas Mebrahtu

F

14-Apr-14

5th Police Station, Asmara

Religious meeting

53

Sinit Kibron

F

13

14-Apr-14

13

5th Police Station, Asmara

Religious meeting

54

Thomas Tesfagabir

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

55

Gebremedhin Gashazghi

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

56

Tesfai Negash

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

57

Mordochai Estifanos

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

58

Mehari Tewolde

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

59

 Negash

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

60

Michael Gashazghi

M

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

61

Liya Hidru

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

62

Nigisti Asfaha

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

63

Alganesh Amare

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

64

Wintana Shiwaseged

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

65

Rahwa Taddesse

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

66

Mikaal Taddesse

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

67

Emnet Woldai

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

68

Salem Ghebrehiwot

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

69

Nebiat Afeworki

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

70

Senait Berhane

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

71

Mihret Yemane

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

72

Eden Ghebreyonas

F

27-Apr-14

Religious meeting

73

 Eliab

M

2

27-Apr-14

2

Religious meeting

Data from http://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/eritrea/jehovahs-witnesses-in-prison/ (Retrieved on September 2014)

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