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Saturday November 04th 2006, 7:32 pm

An eye witness account from Asmara

This week, I am remembering one of the most painful nights: the night of the 4th of November of 2004. It’s nearly two years since that terrible night. Even if I am not good at writing in a foreign language, I’ll try to say something about our existence here in Eritrea because our world (the international community) seems to know so little
Thursday, the 4th of November 2004, was the first time I saw people being shot to death and falling right in front of me. Until noon of that day, it was just like any other Thursday. School was over at exactly twelve mid-day but I didn’t see the time when I was about to arrive home because I was so hungry I could eat a horse. I was 100 meters away when I encountered three soldiers – one with a stick and the two other with guns. One approached me and after asking for my menqesaqesi (an ID permit for moving around), he took it and kept it with him and the other soldier told me to join a group of young people

They had rounded up other young people. Around fifty arrive in a truck from as far as the peripheries of Asmara – close to Bideho School to the south-east of the city. We couldn’t believe what was happening because there were thousands of young people surrounded by well-armed soldiers standing at 3 meters from each other. We were encircled

Nobody could imagine what could possibly happen – perhaps not even the soldiers. We were students in uniforms with books in our hands, teachers, people who were doing military service in Asmara and also many religious people. At 5:30 pm, an order came and it said, “Send them to Adi Ab’yeto.”

We arrive there. The prison was already full. On one side, there was a building space with walls of 4 meters in height and a ground area of 60 by 70 meters - roughly.

We were forced to enter like a herd of sheep. Each person had space for their two feet only. We stood as straight as a standing pole – cramped like sardines in a tin. We were divided in five groups. It was dark already

At 7:00 in the evening, there was screaming all over the place. We started throwing stones at the soldiers who were sitting outside the walls. Some have been hit on the head. They were ready to shoot.

After half an hour, some of the groups stopped protesting – including the one I was in. Later, it was our group that made things happen. We took a ten-minute pause to organize ourselves. We burned car tyres that we found in one corner, started throwing more stones at the soldiers and pushing the wall together until we managed to break bits and pieces here and there. I don’t remember how many but some people were killed by the shootings. The fire kept on burning. Now, when I watch TV and see people burning something, I know there must be a reason to do so.

When the wall collapsed, a lot of young people escaped – especially those who did not possess the ID permit for moving around. Many of these were shot and killed by the soldiers and many were seriously wounded while others managed to escape.

At about 9:00 pm, hundreds of soldiers arrived with 3 armed vehicles to control and stop the uprising. First, they opened fire over our heads and it went on for five minutes (in the morning, we saw the walls behind us sprayed with bullet holes that looked like ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;). From those who were in front, we could hear the last desperate voices. About ten were dead. Terrified and trying to run away from the soldiers, some had run to another part of the prison camp where they were shot and their bodies were one on top of the other. At that moment, I saw the dead body of a 15-year-old boy beside my feet. He had long hair and was in his work uniform. We tried to pick him up but there was no point. He was already gone.

We spent the whole night standing on our feet because we received strict orders not to move at all. In the morning, a friend of the dead boy was telling us (with tears in his eyes) that the boy used to work in the morning and go to school in the afternoon. He had to support his family because he was the eldest. His father has been in military service since 1998,

Later, an ISUZU with military plate (EDF) arrives and takes away 15 dead bodies and those who were wounded and injured because, other than being shot at, some had received hand blows on their noses, heads and backs. It was normal to see shirts soiled in blood from ones own or from some other person. We were so hungry that we could faint any minute. One by one, most were freed but we were kept till late Friday evening without eating or drinking

Late in the morning, I saw something I couldn’t believe. Two young people, one armed and in military uniform and the other with a blood-stained shirt from that painful night: one was telling the other about what happened the night before – each from his point of view. At times, they were exchanging a laugh or two. They were brothers who fought against each other the night before

2 Comments so far
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You guys are the men of the future Eritrea. Bravod for the genuin revolt, I wish u took the gun from the soliders and put the whole situation under control.

It is very sad ofcourse to hear the death of such young men and may God provide the necessary comfort and meet the desires of their families.


Comment by tesfay 11.04.06 @ 8:47 pm

it will not be forgetn !!! the genocide willbe told to teh Generation to COME! today its DIA time to Kill but the time will come that he will be shot too………….and the Time is just coming peoples are wakeing up at large they really know who Issyas really is …so the dictators time is running faster than Expected! NEEd a proof—WATCH the DEMO from south Africa & DC-In USA.

Comment by ahmed haji 11.04.06 @ 8:55 pm


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