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

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.


World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

Updated 24 January 2020

World’s biggest literature festival kicks off in Jaipur

  • Economist and Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee will attend the event

JAIPUR: The 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) started on Thursday.

Known as the “greatest literary show on earth,” the five-day event brings to one venue more than 500 speakers of 15 Indian and 35 foreign languages, and over 30 nationalities.

Among the festival’s participants are Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.

The event has been expanding, with over 400,000 people attending it last year and even more expected to show up this time.  The growing crowd has made the medieval Diggi Palace, which hosts it, look small, and organizers are planning to shift the event to a bigger venue next year.

Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, one of the organizers, said: “The first time we came to the Diggi Palace in 2007, 16 people turned up for the session of which 10 were Japanese tourists who walked out after 10 minutes, as they had come to the wrong place. Things have improved a little since then. We are now formally the largest literature festival in the world.”

Dalrymple, who has extensively written on medieval India and South Asia, has played a pivotal role in promoting the festival.

The other two organizers are its director, Sanjoy K. Roy, and writer Namita Gokhale, who along with Dalrymple made the JLF become one of the most sought-after events in India.

“Why has the literary festival taken off in this country in this extraordinary way? It goes back to the tradition of spoken literature, the celebration of literature orally through the spoken word has deep roots in this country,” Dalrymple said.

“So the idea that a literary festival is a foreign import is something that can’t be maintained. We’ve tapped into something very deep here. Literature is alive and is loved in India,” he said.

Inaugurating the festival’s 13th edition, celebrated British mathematician Marcus du Sautoy said: “Every number has its own particular character in the story of mathematics. For me it is 13; 13 is a prime number, an indivisible number, and the JLF is certainly a festival in its prime.”

The festival this year is taking place amid a raging debate about India’s new citizenship legislation and mass agitation on the issue of preserving the secular fabric of the nation.

Reflecting on the prevailing mood in the country, Roy, in his opening remarks, said: “We are now faced with a situation where we see a spread of the narrative of hatred. Literature is the one thing that can push back against it and so can be the arts. All of us have a responsibility to do so and this is not the time to be silent anymore.”

Gokhale said: “Ever since its inception 13 years ago, we at the Jaipur Literary Festival have tried to give a voice to our plural and multilingual culture. We live in a nation which is defined by its diversity, and it is our effort to present a range of perspectives, opinions, and points of view, which together build up a cross-section of current thinking.”

She added: “We seek mutual respect and understanding in our panels — it is important to us that these often conflicting ideas are respectfully presented and heard. We also resist predictable and self-important all-male panels, and try to ensure that the vital voices of women resonate through all aspects of our programming.”

One of the attractions of the event this year is the presence of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize in economics last year.

There are also panel discussions on Kashmir, the Indian constitution and history.

The prevailing political situation in South Asia is also reflected by the absence of Pakistani. Before, popular Pakistani authors would attend the JLF, but delays in visa issuance and a hostile domestic environment forced the organizers to “desist from extending invitations.”