5 July 2023
Eritrean Human Rights Defenders in The Netherlands are relieved that the Eritrean festival in Giessen (Germany) is not taking place. We thank the municipality of Giessen that it understands the conditions under which such festivals are planned is undermining the rule of law and the enjoyment of human rights which Eritrean human rights defenders seek in Germany and in Europe.
Eritrea is ruled since independence by Iseyas Afwerki, an unelected, who runs a dictatorship in Eritrea. The regime of Iseyas Afwerki is a murderous, oppressive regime. There is no freedom of speech, no freedom of writing, no freedom of movement and people do not trust each other, because of the widespread intelligence cells inside and outside of Eritrea. The Eritrean people flee the indefinite national service which according to the UN is a Crime against Humanity. Eritrean people have been forced to participate in the wars in neighbouring countries, and this includes Tigray, where war crimes, crimes with genocidal intent and crimes against humanity have been committed by the invading Eritrean forces.
The ‘long arm of the regime’ operates freely every across the globe. As part of the system to kee control over everyone in the diaspora, the regime organizes what it calls ‘festivals’ which are presented as celebrations of Eritrean culture, but these are are used to spread propaganda, hate speech, intelligence and to collect (illegal) taxes from the Eritreans in the diaspora. These so-called festivals are supported by paramilitary which carry out the internal ‘security’ and decide who is allowed or not to enter the festival. These paramilitary are a wing of the security apparatus of Eritrea and tightly controlled by the PFDJ which is the political organisation of Isayas Afwerki. During these events, the pro-regime groups are known to instigate violence, provoke violence, such as unfortunately happened on 28 May 2023 happened in Rijswijk (the Netherlands) when peaceful protests were held against such an event by the Eritrean human rights defenders.
The activities of the regime abroad have criminal motivations, which include the maximising of financial extortion and payments forced upon the diaspora, human trafficking, and intimidation. Intimidation includes the punishment by association of family members at home. The country is called an open air prison and relatives in Eritrea are punished for allegations of the PFDJ regime against members of the diaspora abroad. During the festivals, violence is glorified, and hate speech towards human rights defenders and people in neighbouring countries is promoted.
For all of these reasons, these festivals cause great fear among the Eritrean people in Europe, they do not feel secure at all. They either have to act as if they are loyal to the dictatorial regime they fled, or, if not, to face the punishment of relatives back in Eritrea. Therefore Eritrean human rights defenders strongly condemn any activity of the dictatorial regime in Giessen, Germany and anywhere else in Europe.
As Eritreans human rights defenders in the Netherlands, we closely followed the developments around the event in Giessen. We have monitored what is being said in social media with great concern and we are worried for our brothers and sisters in Germany who are threatened by the event. We thank the municipality of Giessen that it stopped the event from taking place.