The Eritrean people in general and the youth in particular continue to endure insurmountable repression under the brutal PFDJ regime. As a result of the extremely repressive policies of the dictatorship, at this time, the country’s future remains bleak. If the situation is allowed to continue unabated and things deteriorate further, Eritrea’s viability as a united nation-state will be in jeopardy, and the hopes and dreams of our martyrs will be dashed. That is why we consider it our sacred duty to respond to the needs and aspirations of our people.
We are grateful to those brave Eritreans, from every walk of life, who have struggled for years to expose, challenge and try to depose the illegal one-man dictatorship of Isaias Afeworki. However, at this juncture, we believe the opposition movement needs to utilize an urgent strategy that ensures a decisive victory. We all have responsibility to devise a solution that will save our people and country from the jaws of dictatorship.
On a daily basis, we are witnessing members of Eritrea’s younger generation – the country’s future – desperately rely on extreme methods to leave the country of their birth and loving families. In despair, they often opt to take dangerous routes just to get a chance to lead a normal and hopeful life. Especially for the youth, Eritrea has become a place of hopelessness, the direct result of which is the countless loss of lives in the Sahara Desert, in the Sinai and in the Mediterranean Sea. More have fallen prey to kidnappers and organ theft gangs, perishing in despicable and dreadful circumstances. As citizens and as members of this young generation, our conscience does not allow us to sit idly while our country sinks into the abyss. We are ready to help eradicate the dictatorship of Isaias Afeworki which is the primary cause of the unwarranted suffering of our people.
The vast majority of Eritrea’s younger generation were born and came of age during the armed struggle for independence. No one knows better than this generation that fighting back and perseverance leads to victory. However, repressed under a system that yields unbearable living conditions and virtually no space for organizing and demanding rights, the youths only viable option has become running away from the country in search of a better life.
For many, life in exile is hard enough and getting settled takes time. Yet, in spite of the absence of an organized body to help them coordinate their efforts, young Eritreans did not stop their efforts to vocalize their concerns and the need for change in their home country. In the last few years, the efforts are bearing fruit and now youth-led anti dictatorship associations are flourishing among Eritrea’s Diaspora communities throughout the world.
For the dictatorial regime, it quickly became clear that it can no longer ignore this rapid phenomenon. The voice of liberty echoed from all corners and the seemingly undefeatable façade of the dictatorship has started to crumble. The Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC) was borne out of this very sentiment for change. It is a result of youth-led sister organizations coming together for a common goal.
Eritrean Youth for Change (EYC)
EYC was formed on June 20, 2008 (Eritrea’s Martyr’s Day). The founders wanted to form an organization that would serve the Eritrean community, push back the unwanted meddling by the regime, help newly arrived refugees and call for the implementation of constitutional governance in Eritrea. Over the next four years, EYC diligently worked toward the realization of these goals in Bay Area, California and managed to demonstrate that it is indeed possible to defeat the influence of the PFDJ in the Diaspora. This exemplary work soon became the model for young Eritreans everywhere to organize themselves in a decentralized manner and impact the PFDJ’s political, economical and social arms.
EYC was ready to enter into the next phase when its colleagues from the Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change invited it to merge their operations and continue as one organization. Known for its flexibility and willingness to work with others, EYC happily accepted the invitation and encouraged others to do the same.
Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC)
EYSC was formed in the midst of the Arab Spring that was sweeping countries in North Africa and the Middle East. In February of 2011, a few individuals decided to take advantage of this phenomenon and the power of cyber technology such as Facebook and Twitter to organize Eritreans online. Membership of EYSC’s Facebook group quickly rose to 10,000 and created unprecedented opportunities for all pro-democracy Eritreans to get to know each other and work together.
The group called for Isaias Afworki to immediately step down; the unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience and the end of the campaign of slavery, disguised as national service. In June 2011, after conducting an extensive discussion and weighing all the options, EYSC Administrators and Organizers decided, by majority vote, to formally launch EYSC “on the ground” in addition to its presence as a Facebook Group. Shortly thereafter, EYSC-Los Angeles and EYSC-Houston were formed.
The merger of EYC and EYSC inspired more groups to be established. EYC-EYSC-Toronto was formed and quickly joined EYC-EYSC. It was soon clear that more chapters around the world would follow. In order to clearly and formally establish this and share its vision with the public, EYC-EYSC organized the very successful and historic “Eritrean Youth Conference” in Washington, DC from May 25th to May 27th, 2012. Shortly thereafter, after electing its leadership and choosing “EYSC” as its offi cial name, the group continues to take steps toward accomplishing the stated goals.
After the elimination of the Isaias Afeworki dictatorship:
- Our vision is to see the establishment of a constitutional and just government, through balanced and transparent institutional structures.
- Our vision is to see a country whose citizens live in pride, dignity and respect.
- Our vision is to see a united and tolerant country whose people live in harmony irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or region.
- Our vision is to see an educationally, economically, and technologically advancing country.
- Our vision is to see a country which is ruled by the supremacy of law.
- Our vision is to see a country which is at peace with itself and in good relations with its neighbors based on mutual benefits, thoughtful diplomacy and progress.
- Our vision is to see a country regaining its pride and dignity which have been badly damaged by the repressive regime of Isaias Afeworki and his PFDJ cohorts.
- To awaken the fighting spirit of the Eritrean youth, revamp the Eritrean national pride, and channel it toward the establishment of a democratic government that respects human rights.
- To defeat the PFDJ’s pro-dictatorship network world-wide.
- To help remove dictator Isaias Afeworki and the remnants of his dictatorial regime from power.
We are calling for:
1. The immediate resignation of Isaias Afeworki.
2. The immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.
3. The end of the campaign of slavery disguised as national service.
4. The swift transition to a democratic and constitutional governance.
Our Principles #1 National Salvation
We recognize that the deteriorating situation in our country requires a sense of urgency. The speed at which Eritrea’s social fabric is being undone is astounding. Just in the past decade, hundreds of thousands of young people have left the country; leaving behind a police-state rampant with corruption and the total absence of legal rights. The status quo is unsustainable and if things are left to fate, darker days lay ahead. It is imperative that a corrective action takes place right away to rescue the country and salvage its hard won independence.
#2 Masters of Our Destiny
Building a democratic system, a cohesive society, intellectual pluralism and legal institutions is contingent upon a nation’s ability to remain master of its destiny. We believe that it is imperative that the agenda of defeating the dictatorship and subsequently rebuilding the administrative functions remains under the total control of Eritreans. Our legitimate cause deserves help and support from the international community, but decisions are best left for Eritreans to decide. There is major and stark difference between help and interference. While we unequivocally reject any outside forces interfering in our national matters, we acknowledge the need to obtain material, moral, and political support from our neighboring countries and the international community at large. However, it is important that such alliances are mutually benefi cial, strategic and far sighted.
#3 Individual Freedom
The building blocks of democracy are free citizens who take responsibility for their rights. We have learned from the past 21 years that collectivism leads to conformity and the surrendering of individual freedoms. We believe that all people are born with inalienable rights which supersede that of any group, association or government. EYSC encourages the empowerment of individuals to join the fi ght for democracy in a way that fi ts their ideology, philosophy and life-style.
#4 Regional, Religious and Ethnic Demands
We believe administrative regions, religious associations and ethnic groups have the right to peace, security and equality. The Eritrea we are aspiring to help build should be one that respects the sanctity of religious doctrine and one that does not compromise the interest of one region, religion or any other group at the expense of the other. However, in order to defeat the dictatorship, we believe all individuals must stand up and get counted as Eritreans fi rst and foremost. The opposition camp can not win the hearts and minds of all Eritreans if it fails to be viewed as a nationalist movement.
#5 Popular Participation
For various reasons, the majority of Eritreans in the Diaspora have chosen to remain silent albeit their desire for change. Fear still reigns for those who chose to speak up and participate, and the opposition movement has not succeeded yet in creating an atmosphere and organizational structure that makes it easier. We believe this revolution requires the participation of not only the youth, but also the older generation. EYSC will create forums where our poets, musicians, singers, actors, cultural performers, writers, painter, designers, photographers, fi lm makers, and journalists can express themselves and generate badly needed energy.
#6 United Front Against Dictatorship
EYSC is an independent movement whose sole goal and priority is to advance the interest of the Eritrean people. Therefore, it is always open and ready to work with any group, political or civic organization whose agenda does not conflict with the priority.
#7 Principle of Resistance
EYSC firmly believes that Isaias Afeworki’s dictatorship can be deposed by the power of and pressure from the Eritrean people, inside and outside the country. In order to enable this, EYSC will play its role in increasing the public’s political consciousness, revitalizing the fi ghting spirit of the youth, and aiming its struggle at the core of the problem, the dictator Isaias Afeworki and his destructive systems.
The power base of the regime is complex, but it stands upon four key pillars of tyranny: political, economic, intelligence/security and military. The military pillar largely comprises of forcibly recruited young soldiers who generally view the system as repressive; therefore, this pillar should not be viewed as genuinely belonging to the tyrant. This force can, in fact, join the democratic movement and become part of the solution at any time. However, the other three pillars, its intelligence/security, political, and economic backbone, are the very source of the regime’s power and misguided support. All need to be addressed, but it is suffi cient and resource effi cient to take out just one, and the dictatorship would be dismantled. EYSC will focus on “political defiance”. It will deliberately challenge PFDJ in the Diaspora and inside Eritrea by disobedience, protest, and the relentless attacking of their power sources allowing no room for continuous support and submission. This way the dictatorship looses the most important base of its power system and virtual legitimacy: its own dependency on the Eritrean people.
EYSC will further target the economic pillar of the dictatorship, where it has not purely economic, but also integrated political objectives, such as intimidation, social exclusion, spying networks, and propagandistic strategies. Most of these political-economic aspects refer to both public and secret money collection and transfer dynamics within Eritrea’s own communities.
EYSC will actively lead this struggle of political defi ance in order to weaken the regime to a point where a clear shift in the power balance will occur. However, one thing is for sure: While this strategy and all related activities will help shorten the life of the dictatorship, they will not be able to save our people from any attacks or retaliation by the dictator. That is why, EYSC will rigorously call upon and work with the Eritrean Defense Forces, who are part and parcel of the people, to be ready to play their active role in protecting civilians and assist in removing Isaias Afeworki’s dictatorial regime when the situation on the ground is ripe and requires it, so power can be returned to its rightful owners, the Eritrean people.
EYSC’s Current Projects
- Setting up EYSC local chapters around the world, especially where the PFDJ has the most influence
- Setting up EYSC network inside Eritrea among the public and the military and help defeat the dictatorship from within
- Work on joint projects with other similar minded political groups, civic organizations and individuals whose focus is “unity in action”
- Provide help to refugees who are forced to fl ee Eritrea as a result of the PFDJ’s corrupt and cruel rule, to the extent possible.
- Conduct media campaigns that expose the crimes of the PFDJ regime and ensure that the international media pays due attention to our quest for change.