Scattered and Scarred
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Recently, the Israeli government appropriated $7.85 million to “encourage the voluntary repatriation of infiltrators” and repair any damage they may have caused.
“The distress of the residents of the neighborhoods that are saturated with infiltrators is a problem for all of us,” said Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the Negev, Galilee and national resilience minister in a government press release. “Like many problems, it receives exposure only when it breaks through the immediate cycle of victims and bursts into the public sphere.”
The identities and origins of the infiltrators were never named. But Wasserlauf was clearly referring to violent riots that erupted earlier this month between Eritreans in Israel, injuring more than 100 people.
As the Associated Press explained, the unrest broke out on the 30th anniversary of Isaias Afwerki becoming president of Eritrea. The president’s supporters were holding a celebration to mark the day in Tel Aviv when they clashed with critics of Afwerki, whose government has never held elections, never established a judicial system, banned political parties, and pursued one of the worst human rights records in the world.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to expel African immigrants from the country, reported Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, Eritrean officials claimed that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, fomented the violence, added i24 News.
These contretemps aren’t isolated to Israel. Throughout the Eritrean diaspora around the world, fights abound.
In Canada, Sweden, and the US, Eritreans have butted heads at Eritrean events that celebrate Afwerki, the Guardian wrote. Organizers said the festivals and other happenings are cultural. The president’s detractors counter that they are actually designed to strengthen the regime and intimidate those who have fled the East African country as asylum seekers or economic migrants.
Since Afwerki led Eritrea’s secession from Ethiopia in 1991, he has ruled the country like a “one-man dictatorship,” according to Human Rights Watch. Among his nefarious policies are endless military conscription and forced labor. Eritreans serving in the country’s military, furthermore, regularly experience “inhuman treatment, sexual violence, and torture,” wrote InfoMigrants.
Hopes for Eritrea were high after independence, recounted London South Bank University professor of refugee studies Gaim Kibreab. After all, Afwerki was seen as a resistance hero then. Many observers were excited to see a country that could learn from the mistakes of Africa’s past – kleptocracy, indebtedness, illiberalism, military aggression – and flourish. Yet Afwerki’s political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, has repeated each of those sins.
The scars run so deep, they still hurt thousands of miles away.