As Vanessa Berhe, a student in ES2A, presents her campaign and association OneDaySeyoum to our school, she shows us just how much we are all able to do in order to make the world a more democratic place.
I am a 17-year-old student and Seyoum is my brother. On an early autumn afternoon, a large group of people gathers in a house in Enskede, not too far from the centre of the capital city in one of the most democratic countries in the world. This group consists of people of different age, gender and background. The hostess, Vanessa Berhe, a student at Kungsholmens gymnasium, has brought these people together because they all want to help her with her campaign that will be launched within the next couple of days.
As part of the campaign, people are asked to have a picture taken of them whilst holding a note where something they can identify themselves with has been written along with “Seyoum is my brother”. “I am a sister, mother and wife and Seyoum is my brother.” “I am a basketball player and Seyoum is my brother.” “I am a believer in democratic rights and Seyoum is my brother.” Who is Seyoum? Seyoum Tsehaye is Vanessa’s uncle who up until twelve years ago worked as a journalist in Eritrea. In September 2001 he was imprisoned, without any official arrest or trial, after criticising the Eritrean government’s violation of human rights. Since then, Seyoum has been imprisoned for a crime that does not exist, for twelve years he has been imprisoned for what we in a country like Sweden would see as a right; freedom of speech.
Eritrea is a country on the horn of Africa, bordering Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti. For over 30 years, the Eritrean people fought for their independence from Ethiopia, hoping that with it, there would be democracy. Since the independence of the country in 1993, a man named Isaias Afewerki has been the President of Eritrea. However, in the 20 years that he has been President, there has not been a single national election or referendum to justify his presidency and his government’s right to rule the country. Independent media has been banned since 2001 and in 2013, Reporters Without Borders rated the media environment in Eritrea as number 179 out of 179 countries in total. That is the lowest possible rating, even ranking below the totalitarian country of North Korea. (Source: Reporters Without Borders) Nine other journalists were illegally arrested along with Seyoum, one of them being the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak.
Urging to make a difference to the fate of her uncle, this summer Vanessa started working on her campaign OneDaySeyoum with an aim to not only spread the awareness and information about what has been happening in Eritrea, but with an ultimate goal of freeing Seyoum. According to Vanessa, this is not just a matter of accomplishing a good cause. In the short film that will be released with the campaign, she explains that together we as people in a democratic society are obliged to do everything in our power to spread democracy across the world that we share with seven billion fellow human beings and that this is why she hopes as many people as possible will want to help her in the fight to free her uncle. Vanessa says, “Because Seyoum’s government let him down, the rest of us have to unite, go beyond borders, nationalities and skin colour and prove to Seyoum that he is our brother.”
As a newly established association here at Kungsholmen, OneDaySeyoum will be presented at this year’s association fair. Furthermore, Vanessa will be travelling to schools around Stockholm, including Södra Latin and Globala Gymnasiet, to give presentations and spread the word about the cause and aim behind the campaign. One day Seyoum, one day. The road to that specific day somewhere in the future has just started here at Kungsholmen thanks to the initiative of one student and the help and support from many more, all of whom are working hard to spread the message that we are all equal as citizens of the world, and that therefore, Seyoum is our brother.
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