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April 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Eritrean women fleeing their country’s oppressive regime are increasingly finding themselves the repeat victim of abuse, exploitation and violence once outside their homeland, a new report by a women’s rights

April 28, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – Eritrean women fleeing their country’s oppressive regime are increasingly finding themselves the repeat victim of abuse, exploitation and violence once outside their homeland, a new report by a women’s rights group has found.

The report titled ‘Letters from Eritrea: Refugee Women Tell Their Stories’ was compiled by the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA) and released earlier this month. It seeks to provide a backdrop as to why the women left, as well as their experiences leaving Eritrea and while living as refugees in their host countries.

SIHA collected the testimonies of 15 women during its research currently living in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.

The deeply personal stories highlight the often traumatic circumstances surrounding women’s departure from their homeland, which is further compounded by economic hardship and ongoing rights abuses suffered in their host countries.

“Kedusan” told SIHA researchers that she fled to Sudan after her husband crossed to Ethiopia to avoid military conscription and she herself was imprisoned as punishment. After reaching the border she was handed over to a group of smugglers, one of whom raped her in front of her two-year-old daughter after they were left alone together.

She later fell pregnant as a result and although she says she reported the rape to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), she says she was offered little assistance.

She later managed to make her way to Khartoum where she found work, but when her husband came to find her he abandoned her after learning about the rape and pregnancy.

In March 2012, Kedusan gave birth to a baby boy and despite the traumatic circumstances of his conception, she says she loved him as any mother. Six months later he fell ill and died, leaving her devastated.

“I loved him very much; he had suffered so much with me and was completely innocent”, she said.

“I don’t want to stay in Sudan, but I haven’t found a way out. I’m so upset about my baby son, but now I must focus all of my energy on my daughter. I only want for her to be happy and healthy.”


According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), some 3,000 Eritreans leave their country every month fleeing the oppressive conditions imposed by the dictatorial regime in Asmara, including indefinite military service, religious and ethnic persecution, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention. For most, the first point of entry is Sudan, although it’s hardly a safe haven for new arrivals.

The local Rashaida tribe and other armed gangs operating in and around sprawling camps on the Sudan-Eritrea border are responsible for kidnapping scores of asylum-seekers and refugees.

According to Amnesty International, victims are then sold off to Bedouin criminal networks in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula for various purposes, including the extraction of their organs. In its latest briefing paper released earlier this month, the human rights group detailed the horrific violence inflicted on captives in order to extract large ransom payments from victims’ families.

A UN Security Council (UNSC) report found that Eritrean, Sudanese and Egyptian smuggling gangs and government officials collude in a sophisticated human trafficking industry estimated to generate $10 million annually.

In this context, SIHA says women are particularly vulnerable to gang rape, unwanted pregnancies, beatings, burns and other forms of torture.

SIHA says that a number of the women interviewed for the report were still too traumatised to speak openly about their experiences. However, the rights group says it hopes the testimonies contained in its report shed light on the hard realities faced by Eritrean women and provide personal insights into the struggles and abuses they endure.

“The stories of the women reflect the great risks they are exposed to while fleeing for their lives; dehumanisation and abuse by traffickers have become a norm in recent years through kidnapping, enslaving, sexual violence and organ harvesting”, the report said.

It calls on human rights advocates and the international community to do more to safeguard and protect the human rights of vulnerable Eritrean women fleeing harsh conditions in their own country.

“Despite the urgent need for a regional approach to refugees, most Eritreans who manage to make it out find nothing but uncertainty at the end of the line, with no authority looking out for their well-being in the long term”, the report said, adding that the testimonies contained in the report are reflective of the shared experiences of many female refugees once they leave Eritrea.

“Theirs are stories of abandonment – by the Eritrean government, by the smugglers who have promised to transfer them, as well as by the host governments and international agencies that have committed to supporting them at the end of their harrowing ordeals”, the report said.


Despite being a signatory to a number of international treatises on human rights, SIHA says that in reality provisions to protect women’s rights inside Eritrea are almost non-existent, with early marriage, domestic violence and female genital mutilation remaining widespread in the Red Sea nation.

“Besides economic hardship and repression, the social and cultural hierarchy deprives Eritrean women of equal access to land, resources and more importantly women have limited control of their lives as human beings”, the report said.

However, one of the most insidious forms of violence experienced by women in Eritrea is sexual abuse and rape during compulsory military service.

The suffering of victims is further compounded, says SIHA, by the “culture of shame” around rape and sexual abuse, which renders victims impure and thus “unmarriageable”.

It is for this reason many women either leave school and marry early or flee across the border to Sudan in an effort to escape entering national service.

“Tsega” told SIHA researchers that she crossed into Sudan with the help of a neighbour’s son in 2011 after fearing she would be conscripted into the military. However, once arriving in Shagarab refugee camp he demanded money to cover his expenses.

“I explained that I had no money and nobody to pay for me, and that he hadn’t said before that I would need to pay … He just said ‘nothing in life comes for free’ and ‘gave’ me to a group of Eritreans boys; I don’t know if they paid him for me”, she said.

Throughout her ordeal Tsega was kept in shackles and drugged while being abused by her captors. She managed to escape about two months later and now works as a live-in housekeeper in Khartoum, earning 200 SDG a month.

Tsega has since learnt that her parents were arrested by authorities as punishment soon after her own escape and remain in detention as she is unable to pay the fine for their release.

“I do not want to stay in Sudan, but I have no other options”, she said.

SIHA, which has offices in Kampala and Khartoum, is a network of civil societies active across east Africa promoting women’s issues, particularly in post-conflict areas.


Review overview
  • Kabbire April 29, 2013

    They have made Eritreans slaves wherever we go.
    Slaves at home and slaves in the Arab world.

    ባራዩ ኣብ ቤትና ፣ ባራዩ ኣብ እንዳ ዓረብ ።

    • Said April 29, 2013

      what can we do we have. at father figure is a dictator.

  • dekiabat April 29, 2013

    Some one has to tie these women and girls their two legs and lock them inside their home in eritrea. They know the are going to be raped , they know they are going to be pregnant and they know their dignity and family going to be shuttered but still they leave their home to cross the border with the attitude of what ever it takes. To be honest these women and girls deserve the worst punishment. The y hasbands and children and if they cross the border 1000000% they will be raped and pregnant but they do not care about their husband , their children, family value and society at all. In egypt a taxi driver tried to rape an egyptian woman while she was in the taxi she said my dignity and my family dignity is above all and she fell of the taxi while it is moving fast what a brave woman and what a cheap eritrean women. Regardless how bad is the situation in eritrea let the men only leave the country but the women has to stay at home with their dignity intact. I think eritrean men are not going to merry eritreran women any more because of fidelity and trust and of whatever it takes attitude by eritrean women. Whatever it takes means they can open their legs to many men as long as they achieve their goal .That is already proven in sinai in sudan, in libya and in other arab country. Last time when assenna was interviewing a group of people from Libyan prison the women and men were saying the left a girl behind while she was being raped by Libyan arab and only return back to save her after the arab finish raping her . What a coward Eritreans and why the women are daring to leave their home and go to arab countries with an attitude of whatever it takes. We should discourage and dinounce any women who leave their home in Eritrea with whatever it takes attitude. I hope Kudusan gets the worst punishment as she has separated her husband with his daughter and caused family pain and disgraced our society . It was her choice to leave Eritrea without her husband knowing what is going to happen to her. Eritrean women and girls need to be tied their two legs and locked inside their house as they are untrustworthy and unfaithfully.Anyone wants to marry that type of women or the children of those women hands up please? I do not want my children to associate with those types of women.

    • Said April 29, 2013

      what are you commonest. or just like your daddy dictator. do you know what you saying. if you daddys on all coholic in your mother is a prostitute. who do you go for protection of course dictator. you sound like those people who kill my kids in Sina.. get out of here moron.

      • ahmed saleh April 30, 2013

        Once Eritrean men played as political prostitutes to react with silence on foregoing wrongs inflicted
        towards citizens , it is obvious women , children and elders might end-up vulnerable to such inhumane
        situations . Blame to those cowards called ” MEN ” who can not defend their women instead you go after
        those victims without giving consideration on their life unfortunate conditions .
        Where is the Eritrean tradition our society raised us with morality and integrity which says
        ” NI GUAL SI KULU AYA’A ” . what a shame !

    • Said April 29, 2013

      my friend I hope to see you in Washington DC you may be changing your mind on the 23rd 24th april we inviting you to come there. this kind of common its not necessary . I’m hoping you not working with the dictator.

    • ida May 3, 2013

      Dekiabar, that was the most uncompassionate, cruel, and ignorant comment I have ever heard of all my life.

  • Genet April 29, 2013

    You are not “Dekiabat”

    You are an illegal immigrant who is biting the hands that feeds you.
    Did you say, “our society” Eritrea is not your society. Begone slimy reptiles.


  • Sahle Yosieph April 30, 2013

    Dekiabat you know what it is easier for you to say because you stupid. (Lacking intelligence or common sense)

  • dekibat April 30, 2013

    Genet,Said,Saleh Yosieph
    Genet and Said,
    Try to convince readers using facts and reality but your response is naming calling. Said I do not participate in Independence Day or Martyrs day because we do not achieved independence or freedom and our martyrs list names is growing daily being in Eritrea or Sudan or Egypt or Libya or Yemen our people are still dying like animals. Secondly if we are criticising HEGDEF for dancing on our brothers and sisters grave why should we do it ourselves. Said what would you do if your wife who live in Eritrea crossed to Sudan border knowing that she is going to be raped repeatedly and tortured in Sinai and you paid for her freedom and came to you pregnant with a child from rape?
    Genet I came western country by legal means and my rights and my dignity intact. It looks that you migrated to the country you live in by the method of “what ever it takes” if that is the case you lost your dignity and self-respect and no wonder why you are in hurry to defend the whatever it takes policy taken by some Eritrean women. I am a person who sticks to my culture, customs and value and I guard my dignity vigorously and I am sure there many Eritreans who still follow this tradition to death but you are not one of them. There are a lot of Eritrean and Ethiopian women living in the west who put their own husband, the father of their children in jail for 10 -20 years for allegation that they said they have been raped by their own husbands. Simply taking advantage of the definition of rape in western country but white women do not do these things. Now Eritrean and Ethiopian women are happy to kiss the child of rape while the filthy foreign who raped them enjoying life and freedom and when these women come to the west they complain about their husband raped them , domestic violence all these crap things but they did not care about the boduin or Sudanese torture and rape. There many factors driving these crazy women to take the “what ever it takes method” surrendering their humanity and dignity. One is people like sending pictures to Eritrea to show these women how sweet life is in west and there are other people who visit Eritrea to show off that they are educated or civilised with money on their pocket secondly there are family member in Israel or in the west tells their friends and family to abandon Eritrea and head to Sudan, Sinai and Libya. Has it ever occurred that all those Eritreans in tortured Sinai have friend and families either in Israel or Scandinavian countries. have you ever watched a documentary film when Buffalos run in herd straight into crocodile infested mouth and you say these buffalo are crazy. Eritrean women are crazier than the animals. In general Eritrean and Ethiopian, women and men knowingly that a crocodile in waiting at the border they simply walk to that trap and the worst is try to blame their neighbour, their cousin. The women and girls know that they should not trust another girl or women because Eritrea is a country where everybody betrays everybody for money. Yes it is true rashaida and others will employ your family member in order to trap you and rape and torture you and sell you. Worse than that these kidnapped people think that $50000 comes with in days and they tell you they are going to repay you when they start work. Who told them, may be the Eritreans who live abroad. They will never repay it in their life time unless they are going to use the disgusting culture of “what ever it takes” even with that they are more likely to day before they repay it. The Evil you know is better than the evil you do not know. So better stay at home or fight back.

    • ahmed saleh April 30, 2013


    • Said April 30, 2013

      now you see you playing with wards. terrorism come in many forms. and you one of them. infiltrated, by dictator, being treated good by the white lady. it sounds like you got a good, so leave those Eritrean woman that who have suffered enaf, en thank u for your cáncern . we have bater job to do.

    • Genet May 1, 2013

      CRY ME A RIVER. You are not dekibat
      You are illegal immigrant to Eritrea. You are a very damaged boy/man. You are kicking Eritrean while we are down. You deserve no other comments. Sorry.

    • ida May 3, 2013

      I don’t know where you came from, but I doubt you are human. Arawit.

  • dekibat April 30, 2013

    I used to live in Egypt and Yemen long time. The young women and girls(Eritreans and ethiopians) who were coming from Ethiopia were getting of the plain with no one to welcome them. Imagine the brothers stays at home while sending their little sisters to the arab world with no one to welcome them at the other end of the arab airport. There were a lot of incidence when the Ethiopian airline hostess intervened to save these girls and in some cases it happen to be that another Eritrean or Ethiopian waiting to welcome his/her friend is obliged to help these young girls who do not know where to go. Sometimes they come to Egypt supposedly someone going to wait for them in the airport and that someone turnout to be is a sexual predator. I am criticizing the families who are doing the wrong thing , things way out of our culture and providing an ample of opportunity to the rashaida, human traffickers and other who have ill intentions. The rape and torture we hear it is a drop in the ocean, there are so many cases daily happening that people do not report it to the media because they think that is their fate and they have to live with it and no body can do anything. I have to say people have to take responsibility for their own decision. The vampire/Dracula has a shoot to kill policy on one border while opening gate of hell on the other side of the border so it is the law of the jungle. The options are for a mass protest in asmara like the arab world or play the law of the jungle or fight back with armed struggle. Otherwise every day 2000 people crossing the border to sudan by now the entire Eritreans abandoned Eritrea and the Chinese Indians and Qatar took over the vacant land hence the birth of a new Asian country in africa.

    • Genet May 1, 2013

      This so called “dekibat” boy/man has a serious unresolved personal issues.
      Nothing to do with our Eritrean people. he needs help. He sounds like a lunatic Taliban.

  • yemane May 1, 2013


  • A.A Yassin May 3, 2013


    anta s’li tesa’inu dyu nezen SOMALAWYAN deqi anstyo ERTRAWYAN gierkumen!!!!!

  • A.A Yassin May 3, 2013

    anta s’li tesa’inu dyu nezen SOMALAWYAN deqi anstyo ERTRAWYAN gierkumen!!!!!

    • ida May 3, 2013

      Yassin that white man’s pic is annoying. It makes you look like karma.

  • ida May 3, 2013

    My mom always said “kubur yekbreka Meten nebsu, hisurke yehsireka Meten nebsu.”