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Carshelli: A Place of Abuse And Suffering
By Submitted by Elsa Chyrum (translated by Awate)
Jul 1, 2005, 09:31 PST

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This is Awate's unofficial translation of an undated letter written in Tigrigna and provided by Elsa Chyrum, an Eritrean human rights activist in the United Kingdom on June 29, 2005.  The notes in brackets [ ] are ours.  The rest, including the information provided paranthetically, is as close to a literal translation as possible.  All errors in translations are our responsibility.  We hope our readers will heed the call of the writer and rise up to say "Enough!" to the brutality that our compatriots are suffering at the hands of PFDJ. - Awate Team 

Dear Eritreans:


This message was relayed to me by people who have close knowledge of Carshelli [localized version of the Italian word for prison, Carcere. The main prison is simply thus known]  Because I have found it noteworthy, I have decided to share it with websites so the people will be made aware.  I will try to present the message as is.


Elsa Chyrum

London, UK

29 June 2005

Carshelli: A Place of Abuse and Suffering


As many know, Carshelli is large prison found in the heart of the city of Asmara.   It has been serving as prison since the time of Italian rule of Eritrea.  All our forefathers who were imprisoned for the sake of their country had stayed at Carshelli before they were moved to Massawa, Nakura or Assab.  Although one cannot speak with certainty, it can be estimated that the prison has been around for at least 100 years.


Recalling the history of the jail does not bring about good memories. This is because it was used as a place to stifle the patriotic sentiments of our forefathers.  Thus, the stain it [Carshaelli] left on the history of our people cannot be easily forgotten. 


This period, one which generates bitter memories, beginning with that of our forefathers who, during the Italian rule era, never returned from their jail stays in Carshelli to Massawa, Nakura and Assab, and ending with the Derg [former Ethiopian ruling regime] should be studied with great care and chronicled.  And now should have been the time to do it.  It is very saddening that this post-independence period continues to witness the imprisoning and suffering of Eritreans.  


What is ironic is that it would not be remarkable if the previous [foreign] rulers did not respect human rights: oppression and suppression is the trait of occupiers.  Notwithstanding this, what is known in the history of the prison by all Eritreans is that, beginning with the Italian rule all the way to the Derg,  [our] mothers, whose husbands and children were incarcerated, were able to visit the jails with meal boxes and bread baskets.  It is also a widely-known fact that they were also able to pick up their [the prisoners'] dirty laundry and drop off fresh clothing.  Even the Derg, which was notorious for its cruelty, did not have a single day of rule when it forbade visitation rights to the family members of the incarcerated.


At this time, when the cities and the wilderness of Eritrea have been converted into prison, the bitter privation and brutality that Eritreans are going through is known not only by those at its receiving end but by the world at large.  It has been several years since the regime of PFDJ or EPLF has been accused of, and criticized for, human rights violations.  Although its suppressive and brutal behavior has resulted in its isolation from the world community, because it does not learn from its mistakes, it has amplified its arrest and infliction of pain [on the people.]  Thus, it can be said that there are no people [anywhere] who are more humiliated, disgraced and dishonored than the Eritrean people.


Let’s leave that issue for another time and day and turn our attention to the brutality, harm, and mistreatment at Carshelli. With multiple rooms or cameras but now overcrowded to the point where one cannot find moving or breathing space—the incarcerated being men and women; the elderly and the young; boys and girls; priests and monks; the civil and the military—this jail is a place of exploitation, brutality and pain.  While present in the world, all Eritreans in this Carsheli jail can be counted as practically dead.  Why?  Because nobody knows they are there.  They have no family or relatives to visit them.  This brutality, which by no means can be endured by all, is practiced right at the center of Asmara, at Carsheli.


It can be said that there is no one who does not know that the political prisoners at Carsheli, like other Eritreans who are enduring suffering in the hands of the cruel PFDJ, are going through this pain after being arrested but without receiving a verdict or a legal process.  But there are brutalities that the people are not aware of.  And that is this:  in a manner reminiscent of the Gestapo’s torture practices in Germany and Europe, from 1:00 AM until dawn, the jail shakes with the screams of prisoners receiving severe beating.  When one asks: what for? The answer is: the older prisoners are accused of being influenced by the arrested ministers [the G-15] and the young ones [members of the conscripted military] are accused of absence-without-leave. 


Because the arrested do not get adequate medical care and food, there are many for whom there is little expectation that they will come alive from the holes they are in.  And the regime who, with its incessant bragging of “by my muscles! by my might! by my klashin!” has denied God His Glory cannot handle the criticism it receives from the people and continues to take insane and crazy steps.  Because many of those who are receiving the beating find it hard to endure, it is doubtful that they will come out alive.


It is estimated that there are around 1000 prisoners at Carsheli.  To mention the names of a few of them: Major General Habtesion Hadgu [formerly the Commander of Eritrean Air Force]; Ermias Debessay [former Eritrean ambassador to China]; Colonel Solomon (Rashaida); the famous Division commander Bitweded [in jail since 1993]; the journalist Dawit Isaac (who has Swedish citizenship); Ne’amen Tekie; Said Abdulmenan (who has British citizenship); Pastor Gebremedhen Gebregiorghis;  Dr Pastor Fitsum Gebrenegus;  Dr Pastor Tekleab; Dr Kiflu; Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos;  Hassen Kekia; Mengisteab Tekletsion; Father Tekleberhan Desalegn (from Debresina); Senait Debessay [sister of aforementioned Ermias Debessay]; Tesfay Geremariam (Adi Nefas); Ande Mehari (combatant)….


Well, at this time, it is not possible to talk and write about, in totality, the brutality that goes on at Carsheli.   The people of Eritrea have been plunged to rule under a regime whose defining traits are its oppression and cruelty.   Well then, those of you Eritreans who live in America, Europe as well as other continents should be able to, in a loud voice, speak on behalf of the humiliated and dishonored people to the international community.   You should be able to say, “Enough with the brutality!  Enough with pain! Enough with oppression!  Enough toying with the power of the people! Enough of being above the law and galloping without restraint!”   But if you don’t do this, your conscience shall nag you and history shall accuse you.

Related Awate Reports


Report on “Sidistegna” Prison (Interview with Semere Kesete)


Report on Adi Abeito Prison (report from Asmara by “Events Monitor”)


Testimonies of Mehari Yohannes & Mehari Abraham on The Executed


The re-arrest of Major General Habtesion Hadgu


The re-arrest of Ermias Debessay and arrest of Senait Debessay


The arrest of Hassen Kekia 

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