The Community of Eritrean Canadians
In Manitoba Inc,
ማሕበረሰብ ኤርትራውያን ካናዳውያን
The son of a Priest thinks
that God is his Uncle.
ወዲ ቀሽስ ያኢ
እግዚኣብሄር ሓውብኡ ይመስሎ
Following the Winnipeg Free Press Article of 25th of November, 2011 entitled “Country they fled has long tentacles - Regime taps Eritrean refugees for cash” by Carol Sanders; a lot of commotion has ensued in Winnipeg amongst Eritrean Canadians. Normally we do not have an urge to respond to such issues but the hoopla over the past month has convinced us that we need to speak-up.
The article primarily dealt with the “long arms of the Eritrean government and the illegal and coercive methods it uses to spy on, and consolidate its control over the Diaspora”.
The President of one of the Eritrean Communities in Winnipeg Mr. Kyriakakos in response to the article in a press release said “the articles paint his organization and the greater Eritrean community as terrorists’’. Mr. Kyriakakos et.al in their press release accompanied by a cartoon with the caption Media Goliaths vs. Eritrean Canadians (see attachment 1) accused the Winnipeg Free Press and made a call for demonstration to Canadians of Eritrean descent living in Winnipeg to:- “oppose and strongly reject the serious Mass Media Distortion from the Winnipeg Free Press with unfounded allegations of terrorism against the Eritrean Community and that it is harming our community and polarizing our members in Winnipeg and in Canada and, the effect that this will have on our children and the new generation of Canadians of Eritrean origin”.
Nevertheless, we have found nothing in the articles of WFP that says; Eritrean Canadians are terrorists nor was there any comment that could be interpreted as such. Contrary to the claims of Mr. Kyriakakos et.al, we residents of Winnipeg of Eritrean descent, have not faced any sort of polarization or marginalization or had any effect on our children. To the contrary it was very enlightening.
The demonstration called by Mr. Kyriakakos et.al is not an isolated incident. Even though on the surface it appears that it was in reaction to the WFP articles, but none the less it is not. It was part and parcel of the series of demonstrations and seminars that suddenly erupted in the month of December 2011 called “Hizbawi Mekete” (National Rebuff) to object the sanctions on Eritrea that was being debated at the UNSC and show to the international community that the Eritrean government enjoys the full support of its people. The instruction to demonstrate and hold public meetings and seminars was issued by the office of Mr. Yemane Gebreab, political advisor to the President of Eritrea and in charge of the “Hizbawi Mekete”.
Some of the similar demonstrations and public meetings held in the month of December 2011, were Malmo, Sweden, 9th of December; Stockholm, Sweden 18 of December (bashing and condemning the Swedish Press); Winnipeg, Canada the 15th of December (bashing the Canadian Press); London, UK 18th of December; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia the 17th of December; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 22nd of December; and the list is endless. A mere coincidence – give us a break.
This fact alone proves without doubt who is behind these coordinated demonstrations and public seminars and, who gives the directives to these so called “community organizations”. The Case of Winnipeg cannot be and is no different.
The actions of Mr. Kyriakakos and the so called Eritrean Community of Winnipeg, is not a new phenomenon, and has been exhibited repeatedly whenever someone speaks about the gross human rights abuse committed by the Eritrean regime. He has repeatedly gone on record speaking as a defender of the Eritrean regime. Since this is available mostly on public websites it is easy to verify.
- When in January 2, 2004 our community “The community of Eritrean Canadians in Manitoba” (which by the way is an independent and separate Eritrean Community from that led by Mr. Kyriakakos) conducted an interview with the WFP to raise awareness on the predicament of the Eritrean Refugees in Malta, (refer Eritreans seek aid for compatriots, Manitobans hoping to bring Asylum seekers to Canada – by William Lin Jan 02, 2004) and to ask for assistance to rescue these Refugees who were in danger of being deported to Eritrea, he made similar noises via a now defunct Eritrean organization called the Canadian peace rally.
- Again on April 3, 2006 when finally these refugees arrived in Winnipeg, thanks to the generosity of the people and Government of Canada, conducted a joint press conference with our community to show their appreciation regarding their rescue by Canada (refer WFP article Eritrean refugees 'born again' - Scars a symbol of struggle to escape by Gabrielle Giroday on April 3rd, 2006) he expressed his objection vehemently. He wrote to the WFP – have your say column on 12th April, 2006 under the title “Eritrean political reality” and said “Your article lacks some basic information and risks creating polarization between our members due to a potentially misguided direction. It touches superficially on the issue of the Eritrean political reality giving false image and message”.
- He further blamed the cause of the refugee problem from Eritrea on Ethiopia’s non compliance with the decision in 2002 of an international court decision regarding the border and continues to argue that “the current refugees in Winnipeg are victims of a prolonged tense situation while their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and themselves were at the forefront of preserving freedom and justice in Eritrea”.
What we want to ask Mr. Kyriakakos is,
- Why is he defending the Eritrean government and its horrendous human right record and tries to give us a false justification to the massive influx of refugees from Eritrea despite the mountain of evidence as documented by human right organizations and the testimonies of the tens of thousands of refugees?
- What does the banning of Evangelical churches as imperialist religions, imprisonment of thousands of Evangelical Christians, the incarceration of the 85 years old Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox church, His Holiness Abune Antonios, the open-ended national service which has evolved into a form of state sponsored slavery, the suppression of freedom of press, imprisonment of all government critics, and the detention of thousands of family members of draft evaders etc. etc. has anything to do with the Ethio-Eritrean border demarcation.
- One in four Eritreans are refugees currently. These new post independence asylum seekers are mostly youngsters who dared to risk the unknown to escape a nation of stolen youth, camouflaged slavery and a land of one vast military camp celebrating death. Eritreans are fleeing their country because it is no more livable due to the massive human rights abuse perpetrated against them by their own government. In short Eritrea today is an inferno.
- Eritrea the North Korea of Africa and dubbed as “a big open prison” today has more prisons than schools and the humanitarian tragedy that has been ongoing in these prisons for almost two decades unabated is horrendous and can be termed as genocide.
Mr. Kyriakakos, as victims of the above atrocities and as recent arrivals from Eritrea, we would like to inform you that this is the underlying issue which has made our homeland the largest refugee producing nation per capita in the world today, and not the non compliance of Ethiopia regarding the border demarcation.
Moreover, On August 22, 2010.Mr. Kyriakakos sponsored and organized a public seminar at the University of Winnipeg for the Eritrean government. The guest of honor and chair was Mr. Semere Gebremariam, Head of Public Affairs in the Eritrean consulate in Toronto. The seminar was intended to shore up political and financial support for the Eritrean government. At the seminar the Eritrean Consul campaigned against UN Security Council resolution 1907 of December 23, 2009 which Canada approved on April 22, 2010 under Canadian regulation implementing the United Nations Resolution on Eritrea (SOR/2010-84).
The seminar organized by Mr. Kyriakakos et.al dealt with 5 subjects and was chaired by the Eritrean Consul and co- chaired by the bag man of the Eritrean government who collects the 2% tax in Winnipeg. The topics discussed were 1) The Eritrean Economy, 2)The UNSC sanction, 3) Appeal for fund raising, 4) Bashing the USA, and the international community including Canada 5) How to deal with opposition to the government of Eritrea in the Diaspora.
Thus the meeting was nothing less or different than a party meeting of supporters of the Eritrean government. Mr. Kyriakakos has gone on record telling the Winnipeg Free Press (23 August, 2010) that the only discussion was regarding the family members back home of Eritreans in Winnipeg. This shows us clearly what a big racket this is, and the degree to which they are going to disguise the true intention of the meeting.
In this seminar the Eritrean consul to Canada gave explicit instruction regarding anyone who opposes the government of Eritrea like human rights group, community organizations and individuals to be singled out, their activities closely monitored and to alienate them and ban them from all social life and community activities. Thus the Eritrean diplomat transgressed his duties and responsibilities as a diplomat by giving instructions to the participants of the seminar to spy on Canadian Nationals of Eritrean origin. This was facilitated and organized by none other than Mr. Kyriakakos and his group.
Another incident was when a US/Eritrean citizen named Sophia Tesfamariam (an ardent advocate of the Eritrean government’s policies) visited Winnipeg to conduct a seminar organized again by Mr. Kyriakakos et.al at the Masonic Temple in October, 2010. On this seminar, Mrs. Sophia Tesfamariam portrayed Eritrea as a victim of conspiracy of powerful actors like the USA, Western powers and human rights advocacy groups like Amnesty International wanting to punish Eritrea and to keep the 'Jewish Israeli' interests in the region. Mrs. Tesfamariam in her anti Semite speech, warned the seminar participants not to be like the “evil Jews”. The guest speaker who was spewing her anti-Semitic rhetoric had been invited to Winnipeg by none other than our own Mr. Kyriakakos.
On the 19th of May 2011 the B'nai Brith Canada, the Jewish community’s foremost human rights agency in its Press release called on the Government of Canada and the United Nations sanctions committee established under UN Security Council resolution 751 (the 751 Committee) to designate Sophia Tesfamariam as a person inciting to hatred and terrorism.
B'nai Brith Canada, also asked the Eritrean Community of Winnipeg led by Mr. Kyriakakos in the future not to host any similar events, and to refrain from providing platform to anti Semitism, that tears away at the Winnipeg community fabric. (Refer to Firebrand speaker triggers ban bid - Fearful of anti-Semitic incitement Posted on 21st May, 2011 WFP)
Fund raising operations from Diaspora Eritreans through Satellite so called “community organizations” from festivals, seminars and conferences conducted throughout the world, along with the 2% coercive tax, is a crucial source of revenue for the Eritrean government. The Diaspora have regularly been raising funds to the state and sent money to their families. All this money ends up in the coffers of the Eritrean regime. The Eritrean government in turn spends it in harboring, training, arming all kinds of terrorists throughout the Horn of Africa. The Diaspora should be aware that the funds they raise is also used to terrorize their own people back home and they should take note that they are jeopardizing the safety and freedom of the people of their host nations.
- We would like to take this opportunity to thank the people and government of Canada for their generosity in helping family members of Eritrean Canadians who are refugees, find durable solution to their problem and to continue the good work until a comprehensive solution is found.
- Taking into account the risk that the Eritrean consular office in Canada poses to the security and well being of Eritrean Canadians and their family members as demonstrated in the seminar of August 22, 2010 organized by Mr. Kyriakakos et.al and chaired by Mr. Semere Gebremariam, we request that the Eritrean diplomatic mission in Canada to be closed and its staff expelled for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.
- We would like to ask the Canadian government to protect family members of Eritrean humanitarian activists and human right organization members from retaliation by the supporters of the Eritrean government here in Canada.
- We would like to encourage Mr. Kyriakakos et.al to cease and desist from organizing platforms to the repressive Eritrean regime officials and its operatives like the anti Semite Mrs. Sophia Tesfamariam.
Ghirmay Yeibio - President
Debessay Asgodom - Vice President
January 5, 2012
Attachment No. 1
Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 13, 2011
Dec 15, 2011
Canadians of Eritrean Origin in Winnipeg and Manitoba. The Eritrean Community in Winnipeg Inc. The Youth Association of the Eritrean Community in Winnipeg, the Women Association of the Eritrean Community of Manitoba
Will be holding a Demonstration
in front of the Offices of the Free Press 1355 Mountain Avenue
on Thursday the 15th of December at 12:30 p.m.
To oppose and strongly reject the serious Mass Media Distortion from the Winnipeg Free Press with unfounded allegations of terrorism against the Eritrean Community
- Dismayed by the irresponsible writing of two articles-stated below- that is harming our community and polarizing our members in Winnipeg and in Canada among Eritreans and other African Communities.
- Concerned that the one sided stories are promoting a sense of social marginalization and political selectivity among the new immigrant African Community in Manitoba that is affecting our relationship with our fellow Canadian neighbors.
- Concerned about the effect that this will have on our children and the new generation of Canadians of Eritrean origin.
- Dismayed by the irresponsible writing on the paper regarding issues pertaining the Eritrean community in general and the Eritrean Community In Winnipeg Inc. with unfounded allegation of terrorism links, money extortion and breach of privacy.
- Disturbed by the fact that your Newspaper had done no serious effort to listen to our voice and provide an opportunity to respond to the serious allegations against the Eritrean-Canadian Community.
- We urge the Winnipeg Free Press to stop incriminating, marginalizing the Eritrean Community In Winnipeg by posting unfounded allegations
- We urge the Winnipeg Free Press to rectify and restore the social stigmatization and defamations that has occurred due to the irresponsible writing.
For more information please contact:-
Lambros Kyriakakos Yohannes Mehari Mehari Negusse M. Ogbagabriel
(204)794-4981 (204)880-2260 (204)296-6112 (204)688-3777
Attachment No. 2
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
B'nai Brith Canada calls on the Government of Canada and the United Nations sanctions committee established under UN Security Council resolution 751 (the 751 Committee) to designate Sophia Tesfamariam as a person inciting to hatred and terrorism.
Winnipeg, May 19, 2011
B'nai Brith Canada calls on the Government of Canada and the United Nations sanctions committee established under UN Security Council resolution 751 (the 751 Committee) to designate Sophia Tesfamariam as a person inciting to hatred and terrorism. Incitement to hatred is a Canadian criminal offence. Canadian immigration law prohibits the entry to Canada of a person who there are reasonable grounds to believe will commit a criminal offence.
UN Security Council resolution (1907) of December 23, 2009 decided that United Nations Member States "shall" impose sanctions on Eritrea, in part, because the Government of Eritrea was "arming, training, and equipping" the Al-Qaida affiliated Al Shabab terrorists of Somalia. Canada acted on this resolution by an implementing sanction regulation enacted April 22, 2010.
The UN Security Council resolution "decides that all Member States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals designated by the  Committee". The resolution further decides that it "shall apply to individuals ... designated by the Committee ... as ... inciting individuals or groups to perpetrate acts of violence or terrorist acts against other States or their citizens in the region."
The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides that "a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of violating human or international rights for ... being a person ... whose entry into or stay in Canada is restricted pursuant to a decision, resolution or measure of an international organization of states or association of states, of which Canada is a member, that imposes sanctions on a country against which Canada has imposed or has agreed to impose sanctions in concert with that organization or association."
The effect of the designation of Ms. Tesfamariam would be to bar her entry to Canada. The reason is her behaviour when she came to Winnipeg and spoke here.
Sophia Tesfamariam spoke at a public seminar and fundraiser sponsored by the Eritrean Community of Winnipeg that took place, at Masonic Memorial Temple, on October 02, 2010. Ms. Tesfamariam is a Washington based Eritrean American. Ms. Tesfamariam, on her Face book page lists as her affiliation "Eritrean Government".
At her speaking engagement in October 2010, Mrs. Sophia Tesfamariam attempted to portray Eritrea as a victim of conspiracy of powerful actors hell-bent to destabilize Eritrea for its policy of self-reliance and its opposition to US foreign policy. The main actor against Eritrea, according to her, is the USA, helped by other Western countries, with the media conglomerates (owned by few corporations), and human rights advocacy groups like Amnesty International wanting to punish Eritrea and to keep the 'Jewish Israeli' interests in the region.
At the seminar, she referred to Israel as an example of terrorist state and as the main strategic ally of the US against countries like Eritrea. She used the words, 'Israeli government', 'Jewish', 'the Jews' liberally and interchangeably. She said: 'Self reliance means we are anti-Israel'.
She continued by saying how the media owned by special interests blackmail and misinform people. She claimed that Palestinians were dispossessed by Israelis and argued that this alleged dispossession is not considered as a terrorist activity. She said: "That is my favourite. The 1948 agreement prohibits Palestinians from having arms. We supply the Israelis billions of American tax payers’ money. Why my tax goes in billions to subsidise the Israeli Army to kill innocent Palestinian kids who don't have arms but stones."
Mrs. Tesfamariam urged the audience to rise up against what she called a conspiracy of media conglomerates owned by few corporations of special interests, along with human rights organizations that have targeted Eritrea's human rights record. She said "We have to be loyal to our nation and need to strengthen the economy. We have to buy shares from the mining companies. So buy shares from those companies who work in Eritrea and get rich quick ... We got to be like Jews but don't be evil like them; don't blow up people; don't do things that are evil, absolutely that is our job."
Mrs. Tesfamariam blamed the Jewish State for being the destabilizing factor in the region. Israel, as Ms. Tesfamariam acknowledged, is part of the region and therefore within the scope of the UN Security Council resolution 1907 prohibition against incitement to terrorism in the region.
David Matas, Senior Honorary Counsel for B'nai Brith Canada, stated: "The October 2010 speech of Ms. Tesfamariam, by referring to Jews as evil as well as its other components, fits within the prohibitions against incitement to hatred in the Canadian Criminal Code and incitement to terrorism in the United Nations Security Council resolution.
Having once violated those standards, Ms. Tesfamariam should be designated and barred entry to Canada to prevent further violations. Canada needs to protect itself against incitement to hatred and violence."
Alan Yusim, Regional Director, B'nai Brith Canada, Midwest Region said: "We ask the Eritrean Community of Winnipeg in the future not to host any similar events. Providing platform to anti Semitism, tears away at the Winnipeg community fabric.
B’nai Brith Canada has been active in Canada since 1875 and in Manitoba since 1909
As the Jewish community’s foremost human rights agency