Expat Eritreans protest anti-Muslim discrimination
Expatriate Eritreans living in neighboring Ethiopia on Wednesday staged a rally to protest what they called religious persecution in their own country.
Last month, a Muslim school in the Eritrean capital Asmara was shuttered, provoking a rare protest on Oct. 31 and an alleged deadly response by security forces-a claim the government categorically denies.
The Eritrean demonstrators marched to the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa chanting the slogan: "Stop religious persecution."
Bereket Berhane, an Eritrean refugee who has lived in Ethiopia for the last 11 years, said the protest meant "to voice our support to the voiceless for what happened in Eritrea at the Oct. 31 demonstration by elementary school children and old women who are now arrested incommunicado."
He said the African Union, after ignoring two previous petitions by Eritreans against the government in Asmara, should respect "its rules having to do with people's rights and children."
Separately, thousands of Eritrean refugees in Shire in Ethiopia's Northern Tigray region reportedly staged a similar demonstration.
Eritrean refugee Salih Tahir told Anadolu Agency over the phone: "We oppose the measure the government in Asmara has taken at a school that came in direct violation of religious freedom."
Tahir said the protest was held at the Adi Arif refugee center, one of four refugee camps in Shire.
Eritrea is 62.9 percent Christian and 36.6 percent Muslim, the Pew Research Center said in 2015.
According to the UNHCR refugee agency, more than 260,000 Eritrean refugees are sheltered in Ethiopia.
The Horn of Africa country seceded from Ethiopia in 1993.
Between 1998 and 2000, a bloody war was fought between the two countries, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands on both sides.