Abie Seyoum's moving speech at the Assembly and the side event
Geneva, 6 June 2013: Human Rights Concern - Eritrea with Article 19, Amnesty International, Civicus, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network Project, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, organised a side event on 5 June 2013, from 14:00 - 16:00, in Room Xll, at the Palais des Nations, under the theme of :
Eritrea: Voices of victims call for greater pressure from international and regional mechanisms
Abie Seyoum (Daughter of Seyoum Tsehaye, detained since September 2001), Biniam Simon (Director of Radio Erena, a Paris based Eritrean Radio station), Esayas Isaak (Brother of journalist Dawit Isaak imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001) presented their testimony in person, and video testimonies of Dr Sarah Ogbay (Former lecturer at Eritrea’s only University), Sengal Weldetensaie (Brother of the former Foreign Minister of the State of Eritrea, Haile Weldetensae, detained since 2001) were also shown.
Herewith Abie Seyoum's moving speech at the Assembly and the side event:
My name is Abie Seyoum, and I am 14 years old. Like every Eritrean child, my surname is my father's first name. My father is Seyoum Tsehaye. Like his entire family during the Ethiopian occupation, he volunteered in the struggle for the independence of Eritrea. He made photographs and films. He was the director of the television once my country was freed.
I have not seen him since September 2001. I was two years old. He was arrested with the reformists and the Eritrean journalists during major raids ordered by our government. One of the only memories I have of him is a video. In this film, he plays with me. He loved children. My little sister Belula was born while he was in jail. She does not know our father, but like me she knows he is still alive somewhere in prison in Eritrea. For twelve years.
We were told that my father is being held in Eiraeiro, a high security prison in the mountains. In the cells around his, friends of his are also detained. But he has no right to talk to them. Journalists, soldiers, politicians. Heroes of Eritrea, like him, who gave their lives for the freedom of my people. We do not know who is still alive, who is dead. The Eritrean government refuses to say where the prisoners are, why they are trapped, and in what state they are. Before fleeing the country, my mother was jailed when she asked.
We fled Eritrea, my mother, my sister and me. Not because we do not love our country. But to save our lives. To live our lives without fear of sharing my father's fate.
Today, I stand before you on behalf of all the children of Eritrean prisoners. All are named after their father, like me. We want to know what happened to our fathers, our mothers. We want to know why our government inflicts this suffering on us. When my sister and I went to see the Eritrean ambassador in Paris to give him a letter and ask him questions, he called the police. We do not know what to do.
So we turn to you. You're our only hope. There are Eritrean diplomats at the UN and in many capitals of your respective countries. The Government of Eritrea has been recognized by the international community that you represent.
So on behalf of all the prisoners' children, I ask you one thing. Turn to the representatives of the Eritrean government. Turn to them and ask them the question they do not want to answer: "Where are the prisoners? What have you done to them? And why? Release them. Give them back to their families."
I want my father back. Belula and I, we want our name back. Help us, please.