14 years in prison. His crime? One article.
Vanessa Berhe is a One Young World Ambassador from Eritrea who is currently living in Sweden, campaigning for the release of her uncle.
When I first heard about One Young World I was thrilled about the opportunity to meet young and dedicated leaders from all over the world. Most of all, I was hopeful because I knew I would become a part of a vibrant global community that could help me reach my ultimate goal: to free my uncle. My uncle is a journalist who has been imprisoned without a trial in Eritrea since 2001.
When I travel around the world and tell people that I am from Eritrea, most people have no idea about what I’m talking about. For the past 9 years, Eritrea has been listed as the worst country in the entire world when it comes to press freedom. It does not rank much higher when it comes to freedom of religion. Eritreans are fleeing a repressive regime so few know anything about. The fact that people don’t know about what is happening is a big part of the problem. And that is where I need your help.
This year, my uncle has been imprisoned for 15 years. For all this time, he has been held isolated with his legs and hands tied up, in a cell in the middle of the desert where it is blazing hot during the day and freezing cold during the night. For all this time, he has not been allowed to visit anyone, not his daughters, wife, mother or siblings.
We need to share his story, because by sharing his story we can actually free him. Because by letting him remain forgotten, we are standing by and letting a regime treat their population in whatever way that pleases them. If I knew that there were no consequences or criticism to my actions, I too might do things that might not be acceptable. By being passive we are responsible in letting this happen.
We need to share his story because his plight needs to be heard and supported. We need to share his story because we need to make sure that he is never going to be forgotten, and ensure that the Eritrean government feel the constant pressure of our demand for his release. We need to share his story because he is not alone- hundreds of people like him have been imprisoned without a trial and have still not been granted justice. We need to share his story because it speaks to all the refugees and other victims of the Eritrean dictatorship my uncle tried to challenge.
I know all of you come from different backgrounds and fields but I think every single one of you could be involved in some way in freeing my uncle and my country from this dictatorship. One great way would be to share his story to people at your university, organisation or company.
Another way one can share is of course through social media. Share any content about Seyoum and encourage people to sign the petition and post a picture of yourself holding a sign that says ”Seyoum is my brother” in order to raise awareness amongst your peers. We also try to get governments to put pressure on the Eritrean regime, so please get in touch if you can help out there. Some of you have platforms or know people with platforms that can reach even more people. Use those connections. If you have no idea what you can do, but still want to help out or if you want to help out and know exactly how, please do contact me at [email protected] or Vanessa Berhe on Facebook.
There are a million different ways that we can share Seyoum’s story and I look forward working together with you in trying to do some of these things.