Confessions of an Eritrean Army Deserter

Teklit_Michael.pngEritrean 'army deserters' have not deserted their people, but the dictatorial regime who persecuted them, and must be granted asylum Eritrean army deserters are denied refugee status by the Israeli government. The question whether desertion from national service in Eritrea is in itself a valid reason for refugee status is pending the appeals tribunal ruling, and that is after the Population and Immigration authority already rejected thousands of Eritreans asylum requests.

These rejections show a fundamental lack of understanding of army service in Eritrea, and how it operates to oppress the people rather than to serve and protect.

Teklit Michael is an Eritrean asylum seeker in Israel and community outreach coordinator at the Eritrean Women’s Community Center.



I am an Eritrean army deserter.

I, as every Eritrean, know the importance of national service and of protecting one’s nation. I know that is the obligation of every citizen to serve our people and our country. We cannot rely on foreign forces to protect and defend our nation. I know my duty, just as every Eritrean knows. We Eritreans were raised upon a strongly rooted tradition, with generations of family tales, of protecting our country and culture from oppressors and colonizers.

Even in my own family, I lost five uncles in the 30-year war with Ethiopia for independence and freedom. My own father served in the army for years. I was raised by my grandparents; not because I lost my parents, but because my grandparents were left alone after losing their sons in the war. I grew up watching their tears day and night. They raised me to be responsible, forgiving and caring. No one needs tell me my responsibility to my country. I know I have the responsibility to serve my country and am even ready to pay with my life, as so many of us Eritreans are prepared to do. There are many Eritrean army “deserters” here in Israel who once fought bravely for Eritrea’s freedom for years, standing on the frontline, ready to give their life willingly for their beloved people and country. If these people have fought for freedom and for the safety of their country for years, why have they left their country now?

The purpose of the Eritrean military has become corrupted. One small group has hijacked the freedom of the country and has begun to rule by fear, not by law. Since our country’s independence in 1991, we have not seen a single election. The dictatorial regime – who were once “freedom-fighters” and leaders of our revolution – have now imprisoned thousands of Eritreans without any due process of law. The regime systematically conscripts men and women, from the age of fourteen to seventy, to serve as slaves to the regime, with their bodies enslaved and their minds diverted, too controlled to resist.

The Eritrean army service no longer functions the way an army should function. Those who are conscripted are forced to serve indefinitely. Rather than serving their country, they are forced to labor as slaves on the farms of their commanding officers, or to build private homes for their generals. These “soldiers” are forbidden from visiting home to see their loved ones. Anyone who speaks out faces prison without trial, where they are tortured, raped and often disappear, never to be heard from again. The prisons I speak of are not like the prisons you know in Israel, but underground prisons where crowds are packed into small rooms or shipping containers, with no space to move or even lay down. They are located in the hottest regions of the country, with barely any water and food given to detainees. I myself was imprisoned in one of these “prisons,” with memories and scars that I would rather not recall. Many who have been held in these underground prisons will never bear children because of the damage done to their bodies. These former freedom fighters and soldiers have now become victims of the totalitarian regime for years.

These men and women who were once willing to give up their lives for their country are now persecuted and oppressed by their own government. They have no tools to shape their country’s future, no acknowledgement of their accomplishments and no voice to speak out. Not only this, they face torture or even death if they rise up and speak out against this injustice. They have seen their family and their friends disappear into the night for voicing dissenting views. They are afraid.

I am an Eritrean army deserter. I have not deserted my people and my country. I have deserted and fled the heartless dictatorial regime that would rather have me oppress my own people than serve them, that imprisoned and tortured and persecuted me for thinking and for speaking as much aloud. I have deserted the army so that I can serve my people, by staying alive and free and speaking out against the injustice done against my country. And the very day the dictator is overthrown and the injustice is undone, I shall return to my country to serve in my homeland.

I appeal to the Israeli people – and people everywhere – to speak to the Eritrean men and women you meet on the street. Listen to their stories, see the scars on their skin and feel the pain in their voice. The recent Israeli court decision – and the Israeli government’s continued denial of Eritreans’ right to asylum – is based solely on misinformation, misunderstanding, and untruth. The people of Israel, the courts, the government, and those responsible for assessing our asylum claims must hear the truth, and must grant us asylum, so that we can live here in freedom and peace, so that we may serve our people and one day return home.

Teklit Michael is an Eritrean asylum seeker in Israel and community outreach coordinator at the Eritrean Women’s Community Center.

Teklit Michael

Haaretz Contributor
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.785285


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Take Action

Eritrean Satellite Television is an international non-profit organization. Please support us by:

Donate

Sign up

Volunteer

Spread the word

Top Leaders

Top 50 Most Earned Points (All time)

Yosief Meharena 1
+6226pt earned points
Zaid Bein 2
+5205pt earned points
efrem tesfay 3
+5024pt earned points
Andebrhan Ekube 4
+4567pt earned points
Hamer Diglel 5
+3295pt earned points
Efrem Tesfahiwet 6
+2960pt earned points
Yemane Ghebrekidan 7
+1514pt earned points
Solomon Ghebrewold 8
+1495pt earned points
Khalieb Abraham 9
+720pt earned points
rezene yowhans 10
+702pt earned points
Anonymous 11
+515pt earned points
Peter Habte 12
+495pt earned points
Tewelde Kidane 13
+480pt earned points
Abdu Kelifa 14
+466pt earned points
Amanuel Mebrahtu 15
+402pt earned points
Abeba Abraha 16
+395pt earned points
stifanos michael 17
+377pt earned points
Haile Tensae 18
+333pt earned points
Teclemariam Ghebregergis 19
+285pt earned points
Abdu Ali 20
+280pt earned points
EriSat Tv 21
+279pt earned points
Robi91 Smerr1 22
+275pt earned points
Zery Bokre 23
+245pt earned points
Biniam Biniam Garmskal 24
+233pt earned points
Mesfin Kidane 25
+230pt earned points
Asefaw Ghebrekidan 26
+215pt earned points
Shaban Mohammed 27
+210pt earned points
Kassahun Berhane 28
+210pt earned points
Tesheme Temesgen 29
+200pt earned points
Selam Fithat selam fithat 30
+188pt earned points
asgedet tesfa yohannes 31
+185pt earned points
amanuel mebrahtu 32
+171pt earned points
abdu Ahmed 33
+170pt earned points
yacob sibhat 34
+170pt earned points
tekle teklzghi 35
+155pt earned points
Ardel_Gash Y. Negash 36
+152pt earned points
Eyassu Tesfamariam 37
+145pt earned points
Ali Baba Ali Baba 38
+145pt earned points
okubay hagos 39
+135pt earned points
selam fithat selam fithat 40
+130pt earned points
Habte Berhe 41
+125pt earned points
yehdego beyene 42
+125pt earned points
Teame Tekie 43
+120pt earned points
Gebrihiwet Gebremedhin 44
+120pt earned points
Tesfay Beraki 45
+120pt earned points
Khaled Abdu 46
+112pt earned points
Mulalem Gerezgiher 47
+112pt earned points
Tekeste Tzeggai 48
+110pt earned points
Kesete Teclemichael 49
+110pt earned points
tewelde habte 50
+110pt earned points

Upcoming Events