Cardiff Amnesty’s February meeting and AGM was an opportunity to look back with pride over the achievements of the last 12 months. Taking the time to celebrate the group’s hard work is as important as planning for 2019. If you are interested to find out more please read our 2018 Report here: Cardiff Amnesty(1).
At the meeting we spent time planning our goals for the rest of 2019 and discussed two exciting collaborations. In June Cardiff Amnesty will be working with Welsh National Opera as part of their ‘Freedom‘ season of opera and events. In July Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival and Cardiff Amnesty will be hosting “Stand up in the Park 2019”. More on both of these plans as they develop.
We also discussed the worrying case of Aster Fissehatsion. Aster has been held incommunicado without charge or trial in Eritrea since September 2001. She is recognised as a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International. The above photograph shows Aster with her son Ibrahim. Ibrahim, who is now a young man, has not seen or heard from his mother for more than 15 years. Ibrahim’s father and Aster’s former husband was arrested in September 2001 and has also not been heard from since.
Aster joined the Struggle for the Liberation of Eritrea in 1974, becoming a political commissioner and representative of its women’s association. After independence in 1991, she worked in various government ministries in Asmara, and was elected to the central committee of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice party (PFDJ). This is the only political party in Eritrea. Due to her criticism of the government she was dismissed from her post in 1996, but was re-instated in 1999 during the war with Ethiopia.
During 2001 criticism within the PFDJ emerged about the way that the President was running the country and party. This dissent became public in May 2001 when a group of 15 senior party officials (who have come to be known as the G-15/Group of 15), published an open letter. The letter made proposals for solving what it called the “crisis of Eritrea”, making “a call for peaceful and democratic dialogue, a call for strengthening and consolidation, a call for unity, a call for the rule of law and for justice, through peaceful and legal ways and means”.
In August 2001, the Secretary General of PFDJ accused the G-15 of attempting to destabilize the country. On the night of 18 September 2001, 11 of the 15 signatories of the letter were arrested. They were all members of the central committee of the PFDJ, and had been high-ranking EPLF military and/or political leaders during the liberation struggle. Like all central committee members they automatically became members of the First National Assembly in 1997 and were still MPs at the time of their arrest. They have been held incommunicado without charge or trial since.
Cardiff Amnesty International is campaigning for Aster Fissehatsion and her family and we hope that you will join us in the struggle. As one of our members remind us, “it is better to light a candle rather than curse the darkness”. The group has written to the President of Eritrea and the Eritrean Ambassador in London to highlight Aster’s case.
You too can join the campaign by writing ‘I AM ASTER’ on a piece paper, having a photograph taken and then sending it to:
H.E. Isaias Afewerki, Office of the President, P.O. Box 257, Asmara, Eritrea.
Cc Ambassador Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus, Embassy of the State of Eritrea, 96 White Lion Street, LONDON N1 9PF