ONE DAY SEYOUM: #FreeEritrea

Anonymous Student

In Eritrea, people are being imprisoned for years without trial.

Isaias Afewerki has been the country’s sole president since independence in 1993. Since then, he has been imposing constraints on both political activity and media coverage. Voices of democracy have been silenced. Although the Eritrean constitution welcomes multiple political parties, the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice is currently the only one. Elections were scheduled for 2001, the first since the country’s independence from Ethiopia in 1991, however they are yet to take place.

The struggle for democracy has affected other aspects of society in Eritrea.

One cannot independently own a radio or television media company — in 2001 all independent newspapers and print media companies were shut down. Freedom of expression is completely banned and the people have no voice in the decision making of their country and their lives. Over 5,000 people flee every month. Many of the journalists and politicians calling for democracy or reforms have been locked up, many without trial.

One of the journalists is Seyoum Tsehaye, an award winning photojournalist. Tsehaye was a photojournalist during the armed campaign against Ethiopia which lasted 30 years. During the time of his arrest, he had been planning to hold a photography exhibition in France, in efforts to showcase the armed struggle. The shutdown of the press in September 2001, and the imprisonment of Seyoum and his colleagues that followed, were a part of a wider plan to silence the Eritrean people and remove their power.

Vanessa Tsehaye, his niece and a student at SOAS, continues the fight for those who have been silenced for merely practicing their own human rights. In the summer of 2013, Vanessa founded the organisation “One Day Seyoum” to fight for the freedom of her uncle and others who have been subjected as prisoners of conscience — those who have not used or advocated violence, but are imprisoned because of who they are or what they believe.

She states, “Our belief is that when the voices of democracy have been silenced, we need to use ours.”

Vanessa Tsehaye

The organisation uses legal and political mechanisms, raises awareness and mobilises people all over the world to put pressure on the Eritrean government. Next week, for example, she has been invited by the United Nations Human High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak about the human rights abuses committed by the Eritrean government and urge other countries to increase their pressure.

To get involved or support the cause, please check out the social media pages of One DAY Seyoum:

Instagram:@OneDaySeyoum
Twitter:@OneDaySeyoum
Facebook: OneDaySeyoum

Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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