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Eritrean Government Critics Disrupt Stockholm Festival: Violence and Arrests

On Thursday, August 3, opponents of the Eritrean government intruded upon an Eritrean culture festival in Stockholm.

The police had permitted around 1'000 anti-government demonstrators to protest near the original event, but a “violent riot broke out,” as stated by the police. Protesters stormed the Eritrean festival, breaching a police barrier, tearing down tents, and setting cars and booths on fire. The Swedish paper Expressen reported that the demonstrators used tent spikes as weapons against the police, and hurled stones at the officers. 

Police reported that approximately 100 individuals were detained, and at least 52 people required medical attention. The Region Stockholm healthcare authority indicated that 15 of these individuals were transported to a hospital, and eight people sustained “serious injuries.”

The authorities have confirmed the initiation of an investigation into violent rioting, acts of arson, and obstructing police and emergency service operations.

The festival, originally established to celebrate Eritrean culture, has been conducted since the 1990s. However, recent years have seen it draw significant criticism for its alleged role as a pro-government promotional tool and a source of funding for the Eritrean government. This is particularly controversial because Eritrea is considered one of the most repressive countries globally, with a president who has maintained power for 30 years without ever winning an election. The country is also a significant source of immigrants, primarily young men fleeing the extensive and perilous mandatory military conscription.

Sweden’s justice minister, Gunnar Strömmer, sent a written statement to the Swedish news agency TT: “It is not reasonable for Sweden to be drawn into other countries’ domestic conflicts in this way. If you flee to Sweden to escape violence, or are on a temporary visit, you must not cause violence here. The police’s resources are needed for other purposes than keeping different groups apart from each other.”

In conclusion, opponents of the Eritrean government stormed an Eritrean festival, alleged to be a vehicle for pro-government propaganda. The protesters were violent, attacking officers, destroying property and setting items on fire. Approximately 15 people had to be hospitalized, and eight of them sustained serious injuries. 

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