PEN Eritrea conducted workshops to Eritrean refugee writers in Cairo and Kampala from 17th -21st of September and from 30th of September to the 1st of October, respectively. More than 45 participants —collectively – took part in the workshops. The sessions were offered as part of PEN Eritrea’s Breaking the Silence project which is implemented in collaboration with PEN International Civil Society Program and aims to promote literature by enabling refugee writers to document, write and share their experiences.
The workshops focused on writing craft, developing stories, selecting angles, and overall the importance of personal stories in narrating a nation’s journey. During the sessions, participants discussed personal stories they hope to develop later and received feedback from their peers. In an attempt to curb the dearth of personal stories due to the culture of silence that has been reinforced with comprehensive censorship, participants are expected to write and share their personal stories.
In Cairo the seminar was offered by Akeder Ahmedin Issa, former associate editor of Tsignay, a private newspaper banned in September 2001, a short story writer, a playwright, and former chair of Eritrean Film Rating Committee. He was spared of the 2001 arrest as he was deployed in the front during that time. He left Eritrea in August this year to escape the recent crackdown that targeted the media and art communities.
PEN Eritrea’s Executive Director, Abraham Zere, also conducted the seminar in Kampala.
There are more than 16-thousand Eritrean refugees in Egypt at present, according to UNHCR report. As Libya’s route has been closed due to the looming dangers, Egypt has turned into Eritrea’s own Casablanca where many await indefinitely with the hope of relocating to a third country as many of them were refouled from their journey to Israel.
Uganda, being a visa-free country for Eritreans and a relatively friendly state, has also turned into one of the popular destinations for the destitute Eritreans.