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Fri Aug 4, 2023, 01:42 PM Aug 2023

Dozens injured, 100 or so arrested after 1,000 protesters storm Eritrean festival in Stockholm

Opponents of Eritrean government tore down tents and set cars on fire, with ‘around 100’ people arrested


More than 50 people have been injured and dozens detained in Stockholm after opponents of the Eritrean government stormed an event in the Swedish capital organised by regime supporters. About 1,000 anti-government demonstrators who had been authorised to hold a protest nearby broke through a police barrier, tearing down festival tents and setting booths and vehicles on fire.

“Another public gathering took place close to the festival site, during which a violent riot broke out,” police said, adding in a statement they had detained “around a hundred people”. Police said they remained at the scene, in a suburb north-west of Stockholm, and were “continuing their efforts to disrupt criminal acts and restore order”.

Between 100 and 200 people were detained, according to a police spokesperson. Police said they had also opened an investigation into violent rioting and arson as well as obstruction of the work of police and rescue services. Police said at least 52 people had required medical attention, either at the scene or at local clinics and hospitals. By 7pm (15.00 GMT), 15 people had been taken to hospital, the Region Stockholm healthcare authority said in a separate statement. Eight of the people had “serious injuries”, with the other seven sustaining “minor injuries”, according to the authority, which said it had multiple units at the scene.

Sweden is home to tens of thousands of people with Eritrean roots. The festival devoted to the cultural heritage of Eritrea is an annual event that has been held since the 1990s, but it has been criticised for allegedly serving as a promotional tool and source of money for the African nation’s government, according to Swedish media. “This is not a festival, they are teaching their children hate speech,” protester Michael Kobrab told Swedish broadcaster TV4.



EXPLAINED: Why did an Eritrean festival spark riots in Stockholm?

At least 50 people were injured and almost 200 held by police after up to a thousand people stormed an Eritrean pro-government festival in a Stockholm suburb on Thursday. How and why did this happen in Sweden?



What was the festival about?

The festival, Festival Eritrea Scandinavia, showcases Eritrean culture with food, seminars, music, a children's area, as well as a "youth program", and is, according to an article in Aftonbladet by author Eyassu Tesfay, who took part in the festival last year, a child-friendly festival which "creates belonging for people who are linked by their history". Critics of the festival, however, say that it is supported by and promotes the Eritrean government.

It has also been reported that the Eritrean regime has earned millions of kronor from the festival, something which Alem Teklegiorgis, spokesperson for NHCC, the organisation behind the festival, denied in an interview with local newspaper Nyhetsbyrån Järva in 2022. The festival, which has been held on Eggeby Gård in the Stockholm suburb of Järva since the 90s, was cancelled by the organisation who run Eggeby Gård last year, explaining in a statement that they found out that there would be "speakers [at the festival] which do not live up to the requirements we have concerning democracy and equality".

YPFDJ Sverige, a youth organisation in Sweden linked to the only political party permitted in Eritrea, the PFDJ, regularly features at the festival. According to Sweden's public broadcaster SVT, Yemane Gebreab, a politician described as the right hand man of Isaias Afwerki, Eritrea's dictator, was invited to attend. “This is not a festival, they are teaching their children hate speech,” one protester against the festival, Michael Kobrab, told Swedish broadcaster TV4 on Thursday. One of the people attending the festival, Emanuel Asmalash, told TV4 that the protesters were "terrorists" from Ethiopia, AP reports. Campaigners for the freedom of Swedish-Eritrean journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak, who has has been imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001 without trial, have also protested against the festival in the past.

What's wrong with having links to the Eritrean regime?

Eritrea is a one-party state and totalitarian dictatorship. President Afwerki has been in power since the country gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. In The Economist's Democracy Index for 2022, Eritrea was ranked 152 of 167 countries. Afwerki is also responsible for crimes against humanity, according to a UN report in June 2016, and he has never held an election. In the 2023 Press Freedom Index, Eritrea ranked 174 out of 180 countries, there are no independent media outlets, and journalists have either fled the country or are in prison. There are believed to be at least another 10,000 political prisoners detained in the country, including Isaak, whose case the Swedish media has kept in the public eye for 22 years. The regime also requires all citizens to pay 2 percent of their income back to Eritrea in tax each year to finance the regime, whether they live in Eritrea or abroad.

Which groups were involved on Thursday?................


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Dozens injured, 100 or so arrested after 1,000 protesters storm Eritrean festival in Stockholm (Original Post) Celerity Aug 2023 OP
not a good look, immigrants Recycle_Guru Aug 2023 #1
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