18 May 2017, The Tablet

Escape from a prison state: Cruelty, violence, intimidation and religious persecution are the norm in Eritrea

The hope that independence from Ethiopia brought in 1993 has been replaced by the despair of an oppressive regime


Escape from a prison state

A large number of the migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean are fleeing the small and secretive African country of Eritrea. Religious believers - and, in particular, Christians – are amongst its most oppressed citizenswrites John Pontifex

In the world, Eritrea has earned the dubious epithet of the “North Korea of Africa”.

Isaias Afewerki’s premiership began in 1993 in a wave of optimism, after a thirty-year struggle by the Eritreans to gain independence from neighbouring Ethiopia. In the years since then, hope has steadily given way to despair. Whereas the regime presided over a programme of building new schools, hospitals and roads in the mid-1990s, a generation later, Afewerki’s Eritrea, located above the Horn of Africa, is frequently described as a “prison state”. Egregious cruelty, violence and intimidation are routinely inflicted on any citizen who steps out of line...

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