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Opinion Confessions of an Eritrean Army Deserter

by Teklit Michael Eritrean '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

by Teklit Michael

Eritrean ‘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.
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.


Review overview
  • k.tewolde April 26, 2017

    It is a very good asylum plea.I have read so many applications similar to this one before.You are not an army deserter, that is a name from the tyrants playbook,you just abandoned the killing machine,you simply came to terms with yourself that you can’t serve the system that is oppressing the very people you supposed to free and that is not desertion.That said,asylum doesn’t bring freedom,as a matter of fact,it is one of the indirect tools of the tyrant to extinguish resistance.’Freedom comes from the barrel of a gun’ Mao,’…We Eritreans were raised upon a strongly rooted tradition,with generations of family tales of protecting our family and culture from oppressors and colonizers…’Teklit,it is high time to uphold that culture and tradition,time to pick up the gun that you laid down and fight the few who are making your life hell on earth,time to make your father and uncles proud again. may be the Jewish State is sending a subtle message in its current policy.Did that ever cross your mind?

  • Z. Hagos April 27, 2017

    Teklit Michael is telling a mirrorized truth about the Eritrean living conditions inside Eritrea that sympathy alone cannot change. Yes, Teklit is telling the world what life is like in Eritrea. Only those who understand and well aware governments of Isaias’s tyranny are ready to grant asylum to Eritreans. No doubt, the Eritrean tyrant takes pleasure in abusing and enslaving Eritreans. The UN and the world know that and are witnesses.
    Every Eritrean inside Eritrea is restrained by fear of death and imprisonment not to speak out. That is why; so long they are there inside Eritrea they have to absorb all pains and cannot complain. But once they cross the border, like Teklit, their stories of abuses and scars of abuses are presented to qualify them for sympathy as they are forced to take refuge from their endless sufferings until Eritrea becomes fit to living a normal life, making sure that the painful life, cruelty and injustice have ended totally. What more is needed to convince their host countries to convince them that Eritreans are leading unbearable and hellish life under Isaias’s rule.

  • ባሻይ April 27, 2017

    ኣታ ንዲያበሎስ ኢሰያስን ንየማነ ሞንኪን እንዶ እለዩልናሞ ሠላምን ራህዋን ክነፍሰልና!!!

  • Kalighe April 28, 2017

    Unfortunately, the cruel clique in Asmara listens only to the sound of guns. And if that is not there, people will have to wait till the last brute of the group meets his/her God. There is no solution in near future.

  • All the same April 29, 2017

    Dearest Teklit,
    I am sad you lost 5 Uncles ,I have lost ++++ of uncles and close cousins. I with they had stayed at home though ,we would not have had all the problems we had. You see Eritreal colony by Ethiopia was a big lie that after being repeated million times it registered as truth. You llok young so I do not blame you for believing the crap.It was baseless.Eritrea has always been part of the Habesha faily ,or atleast part of the Agazian family. I guess it is too late. I am just the one sane guy among 99 lunatics. So ,the joke is on me ,but the consequence is being paid by you & your peers…for bull crap of 50++ years.
    good luck

  • Ibrahim Said April 30, 2017

    You the so called deserters are all small criminals who think to be reach without any capability and capacity whereever. For such kinds even our beloved Eritrea is very Precious to live . Who are you then always claiming and insulting some People and our Country that you think you are a valuable citizen ? You can nt live with the history of your unckle , do your own and fight for thwright not in Israel or somewhereelse. Consequently dont cheat and lie your life , go home and leve decently if you have a small pride as an Eritrean.