A spokesman from the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization, a political opposition group, claims that at least 28 people were killed during two days of protests in Asmara. Another 100 people were also reportedly wounded. According to the group, demonstrations started on Monday, October 30, and escalated on Tuesday, October 31. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the protests started in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Akriya and around the Diaa Islamic School of Asmara. Yemane Meskel, the government’s Information Minister, contradicted the opposition group on Wednesday, November 1, saying that small demonstrations occurred in Asmara and were dispersed without any casualties. Neither the opposition's nor the government's claims have been able to be independently confirmed.
The Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization is Eritrea’s largest opposition group and is based out of Ethiopia. According to local reports, the protests started after the government ordered the Islamic school to change its curriculum. The school’s board, including its president, refused and were arrested, causing students to rally in the area.
The Eritrean government places severe limitations on free speech and the right to assembly, and has been criticized by various international bodies in the past for alleged human rights violations. Demonstrations are rare in the country.
Individuals in Asmara are advised to monitor the situation, remain vigilant, and avoid all protests and demonstrations.
On a more general note, individuals present in Eritrea are advised to avoid the border with Ethiopia. Most Western governments advise against all travel to the Danakil desert due to the presence of armed groups as well as to the Sudanese border. Unnecessary travel to the rest of the country is also advised against. Increased vigilance is advised in the capital city of Asmara and in Massaoua as youth gangs are known to commit crimes of opportunity, particularly in the late evening and early morning hours. Finally, due to a tense political situation, avoid discussing politics or other sensitive topics in public.
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