June 21st, 2016, despite the rain, the Place des Nations in Geneva, at the UN Headquarters, was home to more than 10,000 Eritreans and friends of Eritrea who came together from 81 different countries to rally in protest against the latest appalling report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. At the same time, social media flowed with the hashtag “I Stand with Eritrea” while nationals at home, were with their compatriots out on streets of Geneva in spirit and soul, as the protest was highly followed live on real time through local media outlets.
On this occasion, Mr. Shileshi Idris, Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Head of the PFDJ and Community Affairs in Switzerland, conducted a phone interview with our journalist Ms. Arsema Asmerom for Eritrean News Agency (ERINA), and Eritrea Profile has compiled the interview for today’s Q&A.
- -Of the demonstration
Now the whole world knows that the demonstration was conducted to depict our foremost theme of ‘Eritrean people’s International Resilience for justice’. It aimed to protest against the baseless COI report.
We have committees under the Eritrean Global Action for Justice in all countries in which Eritrean Diaspora reside; for instance we have the NUEW for the Union of Eritrean Women and the YPFDJ for the youth organizations, as such we do have a great networking system in terms of how we function, while in relation with our homeland and our fellow compatriots in Eritrea.
Coming up all together to conduct this mass protest, as such was not difficult. However, we did feel the shortage of time. We organized the whole demonstration in a short period of time, so it was not easy. In addition, the demonstration day was on work day, so many of the participants had to leave their jobs and the youngsters missed their classes in order to attend.
In spite of this, the unfounded reports of the commission have unreservedly infuriated the Eritrean people, so much that every Eritrean came together in a short time notice to protest against it.
- – Who exactly took part in the protest?
I can dare to say that almost every Eritrean participated; young and adults of all ages, students and employees and generally speaking almost every Eritrean came together on behalf of Eritrea and its people. And I do also dare to say that we gathered almost from every corner of the world: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, the United States, Canada, and Australia, among others.
We, Eritreans, when we gather, we gather in the most peaceful way and we divulge in a humane and peaceful manner. During this protest, similarly to the previous ones, the strong Eritrean sense of respect to others was vibrant as ever. It is not our first demonstration in Geneva, we already had conducted demonstrations such as in 2002, 2010 and 2015, and this time as well. We were acknowledged for our diplomacy by local administrations. With over 10,000 people marching together, to manage is usually hectic, but in our case it’s different, we are extremely placid and we even leave without the smallest peace of trash behind at the end of the demonstration.
As such I would like to tell that the city of Geneva’s administration facilitated our demonstration and we are grateful for it.
- – How was the spirit that dominated the demonstration?
In its highest forms of nationalism! The protest was divided in two phases; the first one in the morning hours starting at around 8:00 am, two kilometers away from the UN office. We gathered carrying national and patriotic slogans and big banners with catchphrases depicting our thoughts and beliefs, and the following second part was constituted of a marching trail.
An estimated number of over 10,000 nationals took part in the event. The whole occurrence was undeniably ruled by a strong sense of loyalty to the people of Eritrea and ample patriotism.
Differently from the previous ones, this time we were joined by several African communities who believe in and supported the Eritrean People and Government: we had Ethiopian communities with us and also friends from Sudan participating. Moreover, representatives of several communities and longtime friends of Eritrea did take part and gave speeches supporting our purposes. In fact, they truly did stand by our side in contradiction with the vicious and inhumane allegations made by the commission.
- – These foreign participant that you keep mentioning, what exactly did they voice?
They asserted their support to the People and Government of Eritrea. Furthermore, they are convinced as much as we are, that these biased claims under the pretext of human rights is a preface of a new “modern” form of colonization; a way to conquer the Horn of Africa to eventually, advance later on, to the remaining parts of Africa .
- – Carrying out a mass demonstration with people from all walks of life on a week day would certainly be hard, yet more than 10,000 nationals gathered for the protest. What was the reason behind it?
The scandalous allegations made by the commission are farfetched from the minutest accuracy that we have in Eritrea. The allegations also utterly discredit our tradition, dishonor our history and belittle the dignity of Eritreans and only naturally would we feel a harassment of identity. So we had to stand up for our identity.
- – What exactly did the statements you submitted to UN Office of High Commission declare?
We submitted petition signed by more than 200,000 people from 81 countries, 160,000 of which are of Eritreans and the rest were of friends voicing the unfair discernments on Eritrea, its government and its people.
Moreover, I would like to tell that, 246,000 nationals were willing to personally give direct testimonials to the committee. I would also like to remind that in the previous protests the commission ignored the demand of 42,000 Eritreans to give direct testimonies and went elsewhere to look for forgery proofs, while claiming that they had hovered evidences of 800 people, which we do not even know of, then to worsen the case; based its verdict on their bogus testaments.
The authenticated propositions we submitted strictly defend our identity, we claim that the committee based its verdicts on slanted facts and we kindle on the fact that what UN is adopting, for the second time, on Eritrea will do nothing but damage to Eritrea and its people. We also clarified on the fact that Eritrea has primordially mounted on the quest of human rights, from its ABCs, which is independence.
Seemingly, the commission appears to be oblivious of this matter, and claim that since 1991 Eritreans have been stripped off their human rights, undoubtingly, they have their logs mistaken.
What we are certain about is that our submission won’t prompt urgent response or reaction from the UN office, however, we do know with conviction that at least our voice is well heard.
- – At the end
This one was yet another attest to our unity and accord on national matters. The Eritrean people have since the beginning of time shared unique thoughts and conviction on accounts that have to do with our country and our identity as members of the same state. It is a matter of the very core existence of Eritrea