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  Eritrean conscripted captives wait to be released
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Author Topic: Eritrean conscripted captives wait to be released  (Read 166 times)
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« on: October 11, 2018, 10:19:07 am »

Dawit was tiring, but he could not stop. An Eritrean schoolteacher on the run, he was crossing the border to Ethiopia alone at night, with only a stick to protect himself against the hyenas and the military squads who pick up runaways.

He was risking his life to get out so that he could take up a scholarship in the US. In Eritrea, one of the most isolated and repressive countries in the world, young people have no future. Their choice is to undertake compulsory national service, or try to flee.

Eritrea’s national service is harsh, pays a pittance and goes on indefinitely. Usually, conscripts go into the military. But Dawit had been doing his national service as a teacher for more than 13 years. The government would not let him go.

When Eritrea signed a peace deal with Ethiopia in July after a 20-year standoff, rumours began circulating that gave Eritrean families great hope. People whispered that political and religious prisoners were about to be freed, that the country’s most notorious jails would be closed, and that the indefinite conscription of anyone aged between 18 and 50 would end.

Many believed the historic reforms introduced by Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, were also bringing change to Eritrea, which has been ruled by former revolutionary fighter Isaias Afwerki since the country gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991.


In fact, nothing has changed, say Eritrea watchers. They point to the recent arrest of the former finance minister and author of a book calling for a youth uprising against the president.
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