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.
Kiros Tesfamichael (a.k.a. Awer)
While at Secondary school, Kiros Tesfamichael became an active member of an Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) underground cell.
In 1973 Kiros joined the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), undertaking his military and political training before he joined the frontline. This was a period during which a group of reformists (Menqa’e) demanded proper governance and accountability from the EPLF leadership. They were brutally executed by the EPLF.
From frontline, Kiros moved to become a barefoot doctor and worked as a medic caring for wounded EPLF fighters but he was discharged on health grounds and became the chief librarian of Orotta Hospital.
Following the capture of Asmara In 1991 and after independence in 1993, Kiros became Head of the Examination Centre at the University of Asmara before moving to the Referendum Commission in an administrative capacity and then joined the Office of National Service programme. In 1994, when the Eritrean Ministry of Information was founded, Kiros became the Director General of the Department of Administration.
In 2001, Kiros joined another democratic reform; the G-15 – composed of Central Committee members, Ministers, Generals, Ambassadors and high level cadres. The G-15 agenda focused on changing the leadership style of President Isaias Afwerki. They demanded the establishment of a democratic government and transfer of power to a democratically elected constitutional government. Eleven members of the G-15 were subsequently arbitrarily detained, one recanted and three were abroad. The eleven arrested on 18 September 2001 have been languishing at Ira-Ero prison without the due process of the law.
The climate in Ira-Iro is unbearably hot and the prisoners including Kiros have not been seen or heard from since their incarcerations. The Eritrean government and President Isaias Afeworki in particular, is responsible for their fate, along with countless of other Eritrean prisoners.