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London: Network of Eritrean Women (NEW) highlighted the Plight of Eritrean Women at the House of Commons in Westminster (UK Parliament), London

9th June 2015 The Network of Eritrean Women (NEW) participated in a seminar held at the House of Commons at Westminster (UK parliament) on 09 June 2015.  The Seminar was hosted by Baroness Jenny Jones of

9th June 2015

The Network of Eritrean Women (NEW) participated in a seminar held at the House of Commons at Westminster (UK parliament) on 09 June 2015.  The Seminar was hosted by Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulescoomb (Green Party) who made an introductory speech. The seminar was organised by London and SE Region United Nations Association, London Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF-UK) and Network of Eritrean Women.

House_lords_2The speakers from NEW included Dr. Sara Ogbay, Ms. Khedijah Ali Mohammed-Nur, Ms. Helen Kidan, and Dr. Ribka Sibhatu. Other speakers included Alex Jackson of Amnesty International, and Dr. Lul Seyoum of ICERAS who chaired the evening seminar.

NEW representatives highlighted the plight of Eritrean women in Eritrea and those who are in refugee camps. According to the speakers, the Eritrean women bear the brunt of the oppressive regime in Eritrea. Dr. Sara Ogbay painted a bleak picture of the Eritrean women’s experience in the military where they are made to be maids, cooks, and sexual pleasures of army officers. The young Eritrean women experience the abuses from the day they set foot on the military training camp in Sawa and are then selectively assigned to units based on the officers’ “demands”. In the military their dignity is violated and abused. As a result they are forced to get pregnant from their fellow national service recruits so that they can be demobilised for good and the implications of this is dire. According to Dr. Sara Ogbay, often the women are not ready to raise children, and they don’t have employment and there is no social assistance to help them to provide for their children. As a result they are forced to take on odd jobs as venders, hawkers, and even prostitution which has become rampant specifically in Eritrean towns and cities. In addition to all that, due to the fact that all men aged 16-60 are in the military older women are experiencing challenges to bury their dead, and look after their households alone.

House_lords_4Ms. Khedijah Ali (also from the Network of Eritrean Women) presented the sad story of Eritrean women including those in refugee camps in Sudan, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. According to her, the abuse the Eritrean woman suffers is two folds, the human rights abuses and gender based violence. She read individual stories of women who suffered such abuses, migration experiences, and the precarious conditions under which they live in refugee camps. She pointed out that these women need adequate protection, counselling, and humanitarian assistance so that they can be able to reconstruct their lives again.

Furthermore, Ms. Helen Kidan (NEW) presented on the exodus of Eritreans and emphasised that the source of this large scale migration is lack of rule of law in Eritrea, forced conscription, forced labour, persecution, and political repression. She said that Eritreans have lost hope in their own country and are forced to flee in search of safe haven where they can reconstruct their lives. However, she said, the migrants go through horrifying situations in their journeys. The case of Eritrean migrants brutally beheaded by ISIS in Libya and the 86 Eritreans kidnapped by the same terrorist organisation illustrates such horrific experiences. She also pointed out that those in refugee camps in Sharagab (Eastern Sudan) and Northern Ethiopia are in dire conditions needing both emergency humanitarian aid and durable solutions. Finally, she emphasised that Eritrean migrants are asylum seekers not economic migrants and therefore they should be protected as such. And the international community needs to rescue, assist, and protect Eritrean migrants kidnapped, detained, and stranded in Libya. However, Ms. Helen reiterated that the permanent solution to end the exodus is to establish rule of law and stop human rights abuses in Eritrea.

Dr. Ribka Sibhatu, an Eritrean poet and writer from NEW told her own personal story in relation to the reign of terror in Eritrea. In memory of the Eritrean victims who lost their lives in the Lampedusa tragedy on 03 October 2013, she recited a heart-wrenching poem laced by the sounds of women dying while giving birth. It was an emotional moment and some participants were seen with tears going down their cheeks. The poem captured the tragedy of the Eritrean nation and the agony of the Eritrean people.

Finally, Mr. Alex Jackson from Amnesty International shared his experience of working in Eritrea with the Ministry of Education for many years and how he was once arrested by the Security Agency for no justifiable reason. He said he witnessed his Eritrean friends disappear with no trace where he was in Eritrea. Regarding the outflow of migrants, he said that in his experience of working with Eritreans in Eritrea he observed how much Eritreans love their country and so there must something “wrong” for them to leave the country they so passionately love. He rejected the notion that it takes human rights abuses to build a democratic nation and argued that there is no reason for the Eritrean government to commit human rights abuses against its own citizens. He called the UK home office recent policy to reject asylum seekers as misguided and contrary to reports by the Foreign Office and most importantly the UN Commission of Inquiry’s damning report on Eritrea.  Finally he said that Amnesty International is planning to launch a campaign titled “Where is Aster [Fesahatsion]”, demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience and he called for all advocacy groups and activists to join in this campaign.

The meeting well attended and was very interactive. It was an event which successfully gave credence to the recently released report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights abuses in Eritrea. Eritrean is in crisis under the most repressive regime and the world and most importantly the Eritrean people should make their voice heard and oppose such a system and call for the establishment of the rule of law and the respect for human rights of its citizens.

Network of Eritrean Women- UK

June 2015


Review overview
  • Sara June 20, 2015

    well done, i proud of you.

  • Berhana June 20, 2015

    Good job ladies i am proud of you keep up the good job and thanks

  • ERITRAWIT June 20, 2015

    Well done I will say Quality no Quantity!!!!!

  • hiwet June 20, 2015


  • refugee in Sudan June 20, 2015

    Well done Network of Eritrean women and their gests don’t forget us you are our voice speially those refugees women and men who lived in protracted refugees situation in eastern Sudan who lived and still are living without durable solution and with the absence of wider range of fundamental human rights for years and years in Sudan.

  • yihdego zelalem June 20, 2015

    ኣነን ሃምበርገር ይዱኵዕ ኣብ ጽላል ገበላ
    ኣሜሪካ ኮይነ ነታ ሓፍተይ ሓንቲ ዘይዓብሰላ
    ህግደፍ ንምጽራፍ እንዳ ሻሂ ዝዕብልላ
    ንሰላማዊ ሰልፊ ግን ብጌጋ እኳ ዘይቅልቀላ
    ጸዓዱ ታቤላ ሒዞም ክብሉ”ኣስቴር ኣበይ ኣላ”
    ኣነስ ናይ ቁዘማ እየ መፍትሒ ዘየምጽኣላ
    ሕልናይ ቆልየ በሊዔዮስ ሃገረይ ትጠፍእ እንሃላ

  • Alem Gebremichael ( female ) June 21, 2015

    Well done our women herons . You are the voice of the voiceless, Change is coming soon to Eritrea Keep it up . Good bless you.