I’m not sure if it is out of feeling personal responsibility, social justice or community pride, but I can not seem to stop asking the question; where are the more than 100 innocent Irob abductees, who were taken by the Eritrean government in 1998, 1999 and 2000, today? And who is speaking for them?
Even taking prisoners of war or enemy combatants would causes concern as to how they are being treated by those holding them. As the new UN Security Council resolution shows, the Eritrean government has been asked to provide information on the Djibouti combatants who are missing. One is forced to suspect that the main difference between the Irob innocent abductees and the Djibouti combatants is; that the Djibouti combatants have someone to speak on their behalf and the innocent Irob abductees do not. There can be no argument about how wrong, and even evil, it is to abduct and cause suffering to innocent people who have done no harm to anyone. Not one of the Irob abductees has ever been a member of any political party or involved in any military or civil defense. Their crime; belonging to a small community on the Ethiopian side of the border who refused to accept the Eritrean demand to change their citizenship. This makes me wonder how Eritrea can justify holding these people for so long without a single crime against them and how the world can sit blindly by and let this happen.
Four years ago, I sat down with a sister of one of these unfortunate abductees. She lives in Addis Ababa and is a catholic nun. She is so calm, sweet and so humble, even for a nun. I made the mistake of accidentally mentioning her brother as we were talking about her two nephews that he left behind and I have had a pleasure of meeting them earlier that week. She broke down and started sobbing, apologizing for crying. She said “I am so sorry, but I simply can never be strong enough whenever I think of my brother”. I owe it to her, and many others like her to speak on there behalf. I know many of these abductees and also have a third cousin abducted by the Eritrean government. His father who died mysteriously during the Eritrean occupation of the Irob region, helped to raise me after the death of my own father at a young age. As I was left without a father, not by any criminal government, but due to lack of a basic health, the son of this man who raised me has left his children orphans because of a criminal act of the Eritrean government.
The spouses and children of these abductees have waited for over ten (10) years, to hear news of their where about. After all these years, they still have hope, but their eyes are never dry. They wonder if their loved ones are alive and if they will ever see them again. I owe it to these families, and more importantly, to my uncle who deserves no less from me after what he has done for me. I owe it to all the orphans and widows who have neither power nor means no speak up against the Eritrean injustices. I am an American citizen living with all the rights and privileges; no shackles on my legs, fear in my mind and guns to my head. I owe it to my new adopted country that has bestowed upon me not only all the rights and privileges to speak up for my own rights, but a responsibility to speak out for other’s as well.