Twenty years on – imprisoned without trial, but never forgotten: Aster Fesehatsion Solomon

In the wake of the tragic failure of Eritrea’s 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, senior members of the Eritrean government began a campaign to bring about the democracy that the 30 year war of liberation had been fought for.

They formed the G-15: men and women who challenged President Isaias to give the Eritrean people the freedoms they had been promised. In dawn raids on 18 and 19 September 2001 the president’s notorious security forces rounded them up and jailed them. None have ever been taken before a court or convicted of any crime. They have rotted in prison ever since.

At the same time independent newspapers were closed and journalists arrested. The nightmare of repression which has hung over Eritrea ever since had begun.

Now, on the 20th anniversary of these terrible events, we recall those who have been in Eritrea’s jails ever since. Their families have been deprived of them; their friends have lost them. But they have never been forgotten. Nor has the flame of hope that they ignited – of a proud, free and democratic country.

We have profiles of these brave men and women – and will share them daily.

Aster Fesehatsion Solomon - political prisonerIn 1974, Aster joined the EPLF at a time when the number of EPLF female combatants was very small. After receiving military training and political indoctrination, she was assigned to the Department of Military Training and became a political instructor.

Around 1984, Aster and fellow freedom fighter Mahmoud Sehrifo were married and they had a son in 1986, Ibrahim (in memory of the late Ibrahim Affa, one of the founding members of the EPLF and a Politburo leader).

Later Aster was assigned to go abroad and served as a high representative of the EPLF and leader of the NUEWs Branches in the US.

After independence, Aster was given a number of civic administration positions in Asmara. In 1994, Aster served as a member of the ad hoc committee in charge of running the party congress. At the end of the congress, she was elected member of the Central Committee and served in various high-level posts in government, including in the Ministry of Labour and Department of Social Affairs.

In 1996 Aster was suspended from government for three years because she was seen to be too critical of the government. She was brought back to the government in 1999 and appointed Director-General of the Ministry of the Labour in the Anseba Zone. In 2000, Aster became a Central Committee member of the PFDJ and member of the National Assembly (Parliament).

In 2000 Aster joined the G-15 Group movement. The group wrote an open letter to the Eritrean President demanding a meeting of the National Assembly, which was their constitutional right to do. Aster was the only female member of the G-15. She was arrested along with others and has been incarcerated by the Eritrean regime in the infamous Ira-Iro jail, ever since. Various human rights organisations and governments have asked and petitioned the Eritrean government to give the prisoners the due process of the law, but the Eritrean government has repeatedly declined.

At the time Aster was detained her son Ibrahim was 15 years old. He now lives abroad as a refugee, separated from his mother and his father, Mahmoud Sherifo (a member of the G-15). He has grown up without the love, care, and attention of his heroic parents.


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