What’s to Celebrate?
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Violent clashes erupted in Israel’s Tel Aviv over the weekend, as Eritrean asylum seekers expressed their anger against Eritrea’s government during celebrations of the African country’s independence, the Washington Post reported.
The unrest began Saturday when the Eritrean embassy in Tel Aviv organized an event celebrating the country’s 30 years of independence from Ethiopia. Many Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel rallied outside the embassy to protest the celebration and the government of long-time authoritarian President Isaias Afwerki, who has ruled the African nation since independence.
But the demonstration soon devolved into a riot that saw more than 150 people injured, including police officers, and damage to properties and vehicles. Reports showed that Eritrean government supporters also joined the melee.
Saturday’s clashes mark the latest instance of violence breaking out at worldwide festivals celebrating Eritrea’s independence, events that Afwerki’s opponents and human rights advocates have called part of a propaganda campaign by the Eritrean government.
Last month, at least two state-sponsored Eritrean festivals in Canada were canceled after violence erupted between demonstrators and government supporters. In Sweden, more than 50 people were injured following clashes at a similar event in Stockholm.
The demonstrations are organized by members of the Eritrean diaspora, who have fled their home country due to forced conscription and severe repression under Afwerki’s regime. Many of them seek to draw attention to human rights abuses taking place in Eritrea, where there is virtually no political freedom, independent media, or judiciary.
The Eritrean government has described those people protesting the festivals as “asylum scum.”