In the wake of the tragic failure of Eritrea’s 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, senior members of the Eritrean government began a campaign to bring about the democracy that the 30 year war of liberation had been fought for.
They formed the G-15: men and women who challenged President Isaias to give the Eritrean people the freedoms they had been promised. In dawn raids on 18 and 19 September 2001 the president’s notorious security forces rounded them up and jailed them. None have ever been taken before a court or convicted of any crime. They have rotted in prison ever since.
At the same time independent newspapers were closed and journalists arrested. The nightmare of repression which has hung over Eritrea ever since had begun.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of these terrible events, we recall those who have been in Eritrea’s jails ever since. Their families have been deprived of them; their friends have lost them. But they have never been forgotten. Nor has the flame of hope that they ignited – of a proud, free and democratic country.
We have profiles of these brave men and women – and will share them daily.
In 1967, Alazar Mesfin graduated from Addis Ababa University with BA in Economics and started working to support his family in Asmara. However, as a result of the intensified armed struggle taken place in Eritrea, Alazar and his friends left Addis Ababa in 1975 to join the EPLF.
After completing his military training, Alazar was assigned to work as a radio operator but was puzzled by the prevailing EPLF leadership political rivalry. Alazar, like many of the educated youth joining the struggle, could not understand the disputes and the power struggle that was going on. But he remained hopeful that the struggle’s democratic process would help correct the weaknesses and settle the dispute amongst the leadership.
After the EPLF strategic withdrawal from the liberated cities in the late 1970s, Alazar became a representative of the Purchasing Department in Sudan and he was later sent to work in that capacity in Rome, Italy. In 1980, after just one year, he returned to Eritrea and continued as Head of Trade until independence.
After independence Alazar worked for the Ministry of Trade and Commerce and later he became the Head of Taxation/Duty Department and was instrumental in designing the department process to fit the required economic growth of the new nation. Subsequently, Alazar was transferred to the Ministry of Regional Affairs to be the head of the Economic Department for the Southern Region and then to the Northern Red Sea region. While still on that assignment he went to the US to continue his master’s degree and upon graduating, came back to Eritrea and worked for the Ministry of Regional Affairs as head of Project Management.
Alazar openly criticized the government’s inefficiencies and bad practices. As a result of expressing his opinion he was jailed and kept incommunicado in Ira-Iro prison since 2001.
Two of Alazras siblings were martyred to liberate their country and he left behind three young children.