Dutch ban Eritrean youth congress after ‘incidents’

A police officer stands guard in Nijeberkoop, in the north of the Netherlands, in this May 14, 2016 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2017
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Dutch ban Eritrean youth congress after ‘incidents’

THE HAGUE: Dutch authorities have banned a youth congress of Eritrea’s sole political party after protests erupted at the conference center where the meeting would have taken place.
“Public order and security cannot be adequately guaranteed at the moment,” authorities in Veldhoven, in the south of the Netherlands, said in a statement.
Local police said on Twitter they made “dozens of arrests” on Thursday after “incidents” in front of the conference center where the congress would have been held from Friday to Sunday.
The mostly Eritrean demonstrators blocked the center’s entrance after a call to “prevent the conference” was launched by former Eritrean Finance Minister Kubrom Dafla Hosabay on his Facebook page.
The Dutch government had earlier voiced concern over a visit to The Netherlands by an Eritrean presidential adviser to address the conference, saying it found the situation “awkward, since a top Eritrean official will be addressing Eritreans who have left their country.”
Yemane Gebreab, adviser to Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, had been due to address some 650 members of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).
According to the youth movement of the PFDJ, the congress would have been the 13th such event held in Europe, which aims to persuade “young Eritreans to become more active in serving their communities and the interests of Eritrea.”
Eritrean refugees make up the second largest group of refugees taken in by The Netherlands in recent years, after Syrians, and some have voiced fears of being intimidated.
In 2016, the Dutch took in some 2,800 Eritreans, some nine percent of all refugees welcomed into the country, according to the official Dutch asylum-seekers’ organization.
The University of Tilburg said many of the 20,000 Eritreans now living in The Netherlands still feel intimidated.
Eritrean organizations here “report on people who are not loyal to the regime and... make sure that this is known so that measures can be taken,” said Van Reisen.
Back home “people are punished. They do not get food vouchers. They are fined. They are put in prison. So their lives are really made impossible and very miserable.”
Isaias’ regime is accused of jailing thousands of political prisoners since he came to power in 1991 in the Horn of Africa nation, one of the world’s poorest countries.
No general elections have been held since the ex-rebel Marxist leader took power after a three-decade independence war against Ethiopia.
The UN last year estimated some 5,000 Eritreans were risking their lives every month to flee the country, making them one of the largest contingents of people risking dangerous journeys to seek a new life in Europe.


‘Don’t cry’: Celebration trumps pain at funeral for New Zealand terror attack victim

Updated 4 min 29 sec ago
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‘Don’t cry’: Celebration trumps pain at funeral for New Zealand terror attack victim

  • Nabi was the man who unknowingly opened the door to his killer at the city’s Al Noor mosque, reportedly welcoming him with the words “Hello Brother”
  • That was the memory those laying him to rest wanted to broadcast on Thursday

CHRISTCHURCH: Heads bowed, their hair covered by black headscarves, female family members of Mohemmed Daoud Nabi gently wept as they approached his body until a fellow mourner called out “Don’t cry.”
It was a refrain heard repeatedly throughout the short, emotional funeral for 71-year-old Nabi, one of 50 people slain by a white supremacist gunman in Christchurch last Friday during a live broadcast rampage that caused global revulsion.
Those bidding farewell to the septuagenarian were determined to send out a message. This was a day of celebration, not of loss.
Nabi was the man who unknowingly opened the door to his killer at the city’s Al Noor mosque, reportedly welcoming him with the words “Hello Brother.”
And that was the memory those laying him to rest wanted to broadcast on Thursday.
Huddled together under a marquee on a grey and blustery day, Nabi’s sons recited prayers in Dari and Arabic as the former head of their family lay in a wooden casket at their feet.
“Those who live abroad and die or killed there will go to paradise,” one of the sons said, a reference to Nabi’s journey two decades before from war-torn Afghanistan to his adopted homeland New Zealand.
“He was killed in a mosque in a house of God. He was a true servant. He was a pious person,” he added.
After prayers mourners carefully lifted the casket aloft and carried Nabi toward the newly dug grave at Memorial Park Cemetery, one of dozens for victims of the massacre.
Those gathered were a reflection of the breadth of the community affected by Friday’s massacre, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, bikers, refugees, young families — all touched by Nabi and the warmth he showed.
Some held placards advocating peace and tolerance. Some sported those now two ubiquitous words: “Hello Brother.”
As Nabi’s body, wrapped in white cloth, neared the grave, quietness descended over the crowd. Family and close friends then gathered to pour earth from plastic buckets into the open casket.
Stretching out across the cemetery were row upon row of empty graves still waiting to be filled in the coming days.
It was a stark reminder of the sheer scale of the killings, 50 dead among a small, tight-knit community in a town with a population of some 350,000 people.
Yet the mood in the compound remained joyous and steered away from despair.
Heavily tattooed biker gang members mingled with men wearing Afghan dress, non-Muslims and smartly dressed community leaders, embracing, sharing memories and stories.
A long line of mourners took turns to hug Nabi’s sons.
“I’m happy because he went straight to Jannah (paradise),” Omar Nabi said. “The gunman didn’t even know he opened the gates to heaven for my dad.
“He is laughing at him and smiling at us... Have you ever congratulated anybody for a death? This is the time and this is the place. Don’t cry. Don’t be sad. Congratulations. Your father made it to heaven.”