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Perspectives on the Rash of Violence against Eritrean Communities

By :- Bana Negusse

The past several weeks and months have seen a rash of violent attacks against Eritrean festivals in cities across the West. In a previous article published in Eritrea Profile (“Violence against Eritrean communities underscores abject failure and hypocrisy of the West” – 26 August 2023), I discussed several key points that are at the core of recent incidents, including the West’s hypocrisy and cynicism throughout, how things will undoubtedly lead to greater xenophobia and racism, and that Eritreans have a history of resilience in the face of adversity.

In the following few paragraphs, I extend and build upon that earlier commentary by outlining a number of points that have largely been overlooked, but remain critically important to comprehensively understanding the deeply concerning pattern of violence, hate speech, and terror against peaceful Eritrean communities across the West.

Why now?

Eritrean festivals abroad boast a long, proud history dating back numerous decades. Held annually since the early 1970s, they have served as important platforms for Eritrean communities and friends worldwide to celebrate the country’s rich history and heritage, share the nation’s colorful culture and traditions, strengthen community bonds, and forge links with the homeland. Invariably, they have been peaceful, nonviolent, and friendly occasions. It is against this historical backdrop and context, however, that we now see violence. This naturally begs the question: why now and who are the main actors?

The driving forces behind the recent events are indeed the usual amalgamation of Eritrea’s detractors.

The whole gamut of hostile policies and agendas of harassment against the country that they have feverishly pursued in the past two decades – military aggression through proxies; sanctions; strategic depopulation etc. – have not borne fruit. Eritrea has not ‘’imploded from within, or collapsed from the external wars” that they have instigated.

Their efforts to portray Eritrea as a “pariah State” and ostracize it regionally and globally have also failed miserably. In tandem with the current international trend of increasingly substantive solidarity and alignment of policies in the Global South, Eritrea has managed to foster robust ties of bilateral cooperation with the countries in the region as well as with other major players in the global scene. These developments have increased their anguish driving them to ramp up their hostile agenda that includes, but is not limited to, fomenting violence at public events of Eritreans in the Diaspora with the ultimate aim of banning their activities and thereby severe their ties with the homeland.

Complicity, negligence, and a dereliction of duty

In the lead up to festivals across cities in Western countries, Eritrean community organizers not only obtained their necessary permits, but also warned authorities in their host communities about the threats and intimidation being directed their way by anti-Eritrea elements. Organizers also requested protection and the implementation of appropriate safety measures.

In many cases, however, their warnings and requests remained largely overlooked or went totally unheeded. This represents not only gross negligence and an extreme dereliction of duty on behalf of authorities, but also an utter failure on the part of states to fulfill their fundamental obligation to citizens of ensuring security and protection.

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly apparent that some Western institutions and officials have played a supportive or facilitative role during recent events. These revelations help to shed critical light on the underlying motives of many Western states.

They cannot simply restrict or cancel Eritrean festivals, as doing so would be too flagrant and obvious of a violation of their public commitment to an array of high-minded values. Accordingly, it is presumed that orchestrating and stoking violence that degenerates into chaos will provide them with the necessary rationale to revoke permits or cancel events outright under the veil of ensuring public order and security.

More broadly, Eritrean festivals are targeted because they promote cohesion within Eritrean communities, strengthen Eritreans’ ties and solidarity with the homeland, and ultimately reveal that the prevailing mainstream narrative of Eritrea is hollow and utterly groundless.

The proper response is not to capitulate or yield to intimidation and threats, but to resist them

Peaceful communities and law-abiding groups exercising their legally-protected rights should never be the targets of illegal threats, violence, and intimidation. Yet, Western authorities have frequently revoked permits in response to attacks. This course of action has been taken instead of protecting peaceful communities from individuals and groups that encourage and advocate violence, condemning targeted harassment and rampant intimidation, and meeting violence with the full force of the law. This not only doubly punishes and victimizes peaceful communities, it also serves to appease those who express threats and perpetrate violence.

In the end, capitulating to perpetrators of violence, threats, and intimidation shows, yet again, that Western states’ actual commitment to the values and ideals that they so loudly and persistently trumpet is weak and shallow. It is also a deeply flawed, enabling act that will lead to more violence and destruction.

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