Eritrean Government Arrests Muslim Teachers, Students Print E-mail
Awate - Gedab News
By Gedab News - Aug 13, 2009   

About 30 religious Eritrean Muslims, including teachers and students, were rounded up last week from Asmara by government security officers. They have not been charged with any crimes, and their whereabouts are not known. 

Included in the group is Shaikh Abdella, a man in his 70s, who is a graduate of the Al Azhar University in Cairo. He used to provide regular afternoon ders (short Islamic lectures) at Masjid Khulafa Al Rashidin, (Asmara’s Grand Mosque) after the Asr prayers, until such lessons were banned by the Eritrean government in 2002.

The arrest may be related to an intra-Muslim feud that has been going on in the Mai-chehot neighborhood of Asmara between the traditional (Suffi) practitioners of Islam and the more strict (Selefi) proponents. Their differences had become so irreconcilable that the Selefists had splintered and founded their own mosque.

A key figure in the co-ordination of the wave of arrests is claimed to be the deputy Mufti, Salem Ibrahim Al-Mukhtar. Ironically, when Eritrea’s Muslim elders petitioned the government to name Salem Ibrahim as a successor to the current Mufti, Alamin Osman, they had hoped that he would show the wisdom, independence, compassion and great courage that his father, Ibrahim Al-Mukhtar Ahmed Omer (bio), showed as Eritrea’s first Mufti (1939–1969), making him one of Eritrea’s most revered Muslims. However, thus far, Salem has been earning a reputation as an enforcer of PFDJ’s unpopular policies.
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This is not the first time that the government is arresting Islamic (religious) and Arabic (language)  instructors. On December 5, 1994, the day Eritrea severed its relationship with the government of Sudan (which has since been restored and severed a couple of times), dozens of Eritrean Muslims were rounded up from Keren, Asmara and Ghindae. An appeal letter (in Tigrgina and Arabic) was sent to President Isaias Afwerki and Mr. Mahmoud Sheriffo (then the minister of local government, now a prisoner) in August 1999 on behalf of 20 of the arrested.  

For a copy of the letters and’s English translation, refer here.

Nothing has been heard of the 20 and they are presumed to have been killed. On March 4, 2003, Mehari Abraham, a reporter for Sweden-based TV-Zete, reported that 150 Eritrean Muslims had been summarily executed on June 18, 1997. The date of the execution was confirmed by Mehari Yohannes, the prison guard who helped Semere Kesete, the former president of the University of Asmara student union, escape from jail.

Last Updated ( Aug 14, 2009 )
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