Testimony of what I saw: Gebreendrias Berhane?s Story Print E-mail
By Anonymous - Sep 03, 2005   

Authored by an individual or individuals who wish to remain anonymous, the following article was submitted by Elsa Chyrum, an Eritrean human rights activist.  The orginal article, in Tigrigna, is already published at Awate.com.  Below is an English translation of the article.  


I am one of those deported from Malta to Eritrea in 2002. I went through tormenting abuse and sufferings, but with the power of God, I escaped from the grip of the monstrous soldiers; I am now in exile. When we returned from Malta, the torture that we faced cannot be recounted in full. These [testimonies] of Adi Abeito and Dahlak were published and I do not see a reason for repeating it. What I intend to write today is about a person who died because of abuse and torture; his name is Alazar Gebreendrias. We grew up together and he was a friend that I loved.


His father?s name is Gebreendrias Berhane. His mother is Weizero Tsegweyni Qeshi Enquay. His birth place is Adi Kefelet in Hamassen and he was born in 1972. He went to school in his birthplace until grade 6 and then he left for Asmara and became a trader and was helping his family. However, because the nation that made everybody restless also caught him, in 1995, he was called for national service, 2nd round, and went to Sawa. He finished his obligation and returned to Asmara in 1996. Similar to what he did before, he returned to his trading and buying/selling to help his family.


In 1998 when the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted, he, like all his Eritrean brethren, was called for duty and he voluntarily reported. Until the 3rd round was finished and the war settled, he defended [his country] with valour and finished what was expected of him. Since, during that time, everyone found the sufferings and misdeeds that were being committed on the army unbearable, all the youth were taking steps that they deemed necessary for themselves. Some were forced to seek refuge in Sudan and others in Ethiopia. Therefore, Alazar was one of those who left for the Sudan en masse.


After staying in the Sudan for a limited period, he, like all his Eritrean brethren who were in the Sudan, went to Libya. When Libya is mentioned, it seems as if it is a nation of human beings. But when it comes to foreign people like Eritreans who ended up there due to hardships, it is not an exaggeration if we consider Libya a desert hell (Sioul). Since Alazar didn?t have relatives in the Diaspora who could help him, he went through a lot of hardships; and with a lot of difficulty, he headed for Italy in 2002. However, as the saying goes, ?when an unlucky person started to sell candles, God changed night into day?: the ship that carried Alazar faced  waves that took it to the shores of a country named Malta. After two months of imprisonment in Malta, those Eritreans whose fate was destroyed were forcefully returned to Eritrea. Alazar was one of those who faced this fate. He fell in the hands of cruel and unsympathetic government of Eritrea. 


Alazar stayed in Adi Abeyto prison and, at the end of 2002, he was taken to Dahlak. The hardships of Alazar didn?t finish here. In April 2004, he was taken to Gelaalo prison where abuse and cruelty were abundant. In Gelaalo, in the dry forests, with empty stomachs and dry throats, [the prisoners]were digging mountains, collecting and carrying boulders, and were forced to build roads and houses. In time, their bodies were weakened. Alazar was weakened because of hunger and thirst. He was getting sicker and sicker. But the cruel administrators of the prison and the soldiers didn?t have a conscience that sympathizes. Due to this, Alazar?s health deteriorated.


Though his health deteriorated, Alazar didn?t find a right that would enable him to get medical attention. He died due to extreme cruelty and abuse. Alazar died asking for something to eat. He didn?t find anyone to sympathise. This kind of abuse is a misfortune that has befallen all prisoners. Alazar died around May 2004. No one knows where he was buried. His parents were not formally informed of their son?s death until now.


As a person, Alazar was a kind, industrious, humorous, patient and generous person who thought of others before himself. Though that was his character, he didn?t get lucky in escaping death.


In speaking about Alazar, I am giving my testimony. When the dark night in our country is stricken by dawn, there will be many who will be held responsible. I hope this testimony will be presented as a proof.


I hope God accepts my beloved friend Alazar in paradise and wish strength for his family.


Correction: In the previous testimony of the Gelaalo prison, the name Alazar Gebrenegus should read Alazar Gebreendrias.

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