AUDIO VOA Discussion on recent protest in Asmara
01 Nov 2017 – The U.S. Embassy in Asmara quickly shout out to the world ‘gunfire, gunfire, gunfire!!!’. Hours later, to Langley’s disappointment, they were told it wasn’t a coup after all. The Eritrean President-For-Life is still in charge of the country.
Eritrea’s Ministry of Education had outlined a plan, in mid-2014, for transferring all schools to become community schools administered and financed by the public. However, when the plan was presented to school administrators, it was vehemently opposed as being an unrealistic plan given the financial hardship that many communities are facing.
Ignoring these and other concerns, the government made proposals (in a circular that went out in mid-September), for the implementation of the proposals to make all schools, ‘community’ schools, immediately. The Islamic school Diae was one of the schools that was affected by these plans. Under these new plans Diae, which was run by parent committees as a private Islamic school, was to become a non-denominational public school run by the ‘local community’. When the school administration rejected these proposals and it became inevitable that the plans were to be forcibly implemented, the administration asked for an opportunity to consult with the wider school community.
At the meeting that took place on 15th October 2016, Haji Musa Mohamed Nur, a respected elder in the community made an impassioned speech and was taken to prison, over the following days, as a result. And it is this that triggered yesterday’s rally on the streets of Asmara.
At around 2:00 pm, Asmara time, around 100 boys and girls who are students at the Diae school walked in protest on the main promenades of Asmara, heading towards the presidential offices, demanding the reinstatement of their school’s administration and the release of the people who were incarcerated in relation to the recent opposition to the plans to change the status of their school.
Soon after the gathering, security officers armed with sticks begun beating up protestors and chasing them all the way to Akria, the neighbourhood of the school where many of the students were from.
Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel, took to Twitter to downplay the importance of the protests, calling them a “small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without any causality.”
Protests are exceedingly rare in the Eritrean capital, where free speech and political demonstrations are severely curtailed
VOA – Demonstrations in Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, have drawn a violent crackdown with reports of gunshots.
The U.S. Embassy reported the protests and gunshots, although the source of the gunfire is unknown. Multiple videos shared via Facebook and Twitter and uploaded to YouTube show demonstrators fleeing along Asmara’s downtown streets with sounds of gunshots audible.
Unverified reports state the protests began in the city’s predominantly Muslim Akriya neighborhood. There, the Diaa Islamic School of Asmara had been ordered by the government to change its curriculum. The school’s board — including an elderly board member, Hajji Muasa Mohamed Nur — refused, and some were arrested, according to a report by Awate.com, an Eritrean news website that is opposed to the government and its policies. The arrests prompted students and others sympathetic to the cause to take to the streets to demonstrate.
According to Radio Erena, a radio station run by Eritrean diaspora journalists in Paris, more than 100 students from the school protested on Oct. 31 following an order by the government to shut down the school. Within an hour, government forces armed with sticks and firearms dispersed the crowd, Radio Erena reported.
Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel, took to Twitter to downplay the importance of the protests, calling them a “small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without any casuality [sic] hardly breaking news.”
Protests are exceedingly rare in the Eritrean capital, where free speech and political demonstrations are severely curtailed.