1, November 2017
Protests in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, have left at least 28 killed as people have reportedly become discontented with a government decision to take over control of an Islamic school.
Reports on Wednesday said some 100 people had also been injured in the protest, which began earlier Monday and escalated on Tuesday.
Nasredin Ali, a spokesman for the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization, a group based in neighboring Ethiopia, said clashes began after people resisted to hand over to government forces control of a Muslim community school in Asmara.
“Following the refusal to hand over the school, some 40 people were arrested and this led to the massive protests,” he said, adding that a tense atmosphere continued to dominate Asmara on Wednesday as people gathered to hold a funeral ceremony for those slain in the clashes. Ali even said that the Eritrean army was deploying troops to the city.
Authorities denied there were fatalities with Information Minister Yemane Meskel saying police had managed to disperse without any casualty the “small demonstration by one school in Asmara.”
Officials representing Eritrea in the African Union mission in Ethiopia were not available for comment on the reports of unrest.
Sunni Muslims comprise half of Eritrea’s population while there are other practices of Islam that the government bans. The government also allows religious education in private schools but it strictly monitors if there is any political activity.
Eritrea has also faced criticism from the West over its harsh military conscription laws. Many say those laws and lack of freedom for the youth have been mainly responsible for the influx of refugees from Eritrea into Europe.