Jailed without trace in Eritrea

Sherifo and Aster family

Sherifo and Aster family

Ibrahim Sherifo, 30, has not seen or heard from his parents since he was 13 years old when they were “disappeared” in Eritrea.

“The memory still haunts me – that black Tuesday in September 2001 – that day changed my life forever,” he told the BBC Tigrinya service.

“I woke up before the crack of dawn to the sound of pounding boots and shouted commands,” he remembers.

His parents had separated, and he and his siblings were staying at their grandparents’ home with their mother in the capital, Asmara.

“Running out in the yard, I was just in time to see my mother being dragged from the house by soldiers.”

Both his mother, Aster Fissehatsion, and his father, Mahmoud Ahmed Sherifo, were then prominent politicians and members of Eritrea’s now defunct parliament.

“Terrified, I ran like the wind to alert my father, who was living several blocks away from us at the time, to alert him of what was happening to mum.

“I did not know that he too had been picked up by security agents a quarter of an hour earlier.”

Since that day neither he, nor anyone else, has seen or heard from his parents.

The government accuses them of treason, but they have never appeared before a court of law – and have been held incommunicado for 17 years.

They were arrested, along with 11 others, for criticising President Isaias Afwerki, who has run a one-party state since Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

Their fate was sealed when their group, known as the G-15, wrote an open letter to the president calling for democratic reforms – and the implementation of a constitution approved by parliament.

At the time, his father was de facto deputy president of the country – and had been one of the top leaders of the EPLF rebel movement during the fight for independence.

After the arrest, the salaries of his parents were stopped and he and his siblings had to rely on the support of relatives.

Even as a 13-year-old, Mr Ibrahim says he was aware of the political situation, although his mother and father never discussed such sensitive issues at home in order to shield the children.

“Before the independent newspapers were closed, I was reading about what my parents and what they and their colleagues were calling for, so I knew what was going on.”

Their bravery still impresses him. -BBC

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