The 13th YPFDJ conference convened on Thursday 13 April 2017 after a full year of preparation and organisation to holdits 13th annual consecutive youth conference in the city of Veldhoven, in the Netherlands.
The conference had workshops designed to help youthdiscuss and debateEuropean and global issues, learn from eachotherabouttheirhistory, heritage and culture, aswellas share theirprofessionalexperiences.
The nearly 600 conference participantsarrived from around the world, the majoritywereEuropeancitizens. Theyallarrived on Thursday 13 April and met for one full day and addressed part of the conference programbeforeitwashalted by the mayor of Veldhoven. Thatdecisionwas a mistake of enormousproportion.
The decision made by the mayor and Dutchgovernmentwasregrettable and politicallymotivated, and designed to halt the conference proceedingsusing false pretexts. The decisionclearlyviolated the basicrights of assembly and freedom of expression of all the European-Eritreancitizensat the conference.
The purportedreasongiven by the Dutchauthorities to halt the conference abruptlywithin 24 hours was “public safety”, safety of the conference attendees. Thisreasonisunacceptable and far removed from the reality of whattranspiredduring the nexttwodays.
The Conference OrganizingCommittee (COC), meticulously made all the necessarylogisticalarrangements and allparticipantshadenteredpeacefully and in an orderly fashion without a single incident or disruption. At no time did the participants of the YPFDJ conference threaten the peace. In fact, for the last 13 years of holding conferences in differentvenuesacross Europe, includingone in the Netherlands in 2008, therehasneverbeen a single complaint by any of the venues or city authorities in which the conferenceswereheld.
All the transgressionsthat led to claiming public safetywascommitted by the Mayor of Veldhoven, severalDutch media outletsengaged in a frenziedeffort to deny YPFDJ the right to hold the conference peacefully, and providedindividualswhohavebeencampaigningagainst Eritrea scornfully and obsessively for the pasttwodecades, to instigate regime change in Eritrea.
The Mayor of Veldhoveninexplicablyannounced the address of the conference venue to the media on Wednesday 12th of April and the media outletsannouncedcalls for demonstration in the localpapers and around 60 individualswhorecentlysoughtasylum in the Netherlands turned up to violentlyprotest, upon the urging by Professor Mirjam Van Reisenwhohasinsertedherself in the Eritreanpolitical arena, and takensides. Sheadvised some Eritreanswhosoughtasylum in the Netherlands recently, that the only way to stop the conference was by provokingacts of violence and causing a disturbance. The evidence for this can be foundall over social media and havebeenfullyrecorded.
Despite open provocation and violence by the protesters with Mirjam Van Reisenamongstthem, all conference participantsacted in a civilizedmanner and didnothing to retaliateagainst the violentactions, whichincludedphysicalattacks on participants and vehiclesentering the premises. The media outletspresentoutside the venue, with no knowledgeabout the conference, choreographed the protesters for the headlinepictures and video clips disseminatedthroughoutHolland and beyond.
Therefore, wefinditunconstitutional and abuse of power by the Dutchauthorities, to notonlydisrupt the conference and callouslyorder the immediate evacuation of nearly 600 participantsafterdarkness, puttingeveryoneatriskincludingmothers with 4 monthsoldbabies.
Afterchallenging the decision in court, the conference organisersoffered to haltall conference activities and stay in the hotel asguests, the primaryconcernbeing the physical welfare and safety of the participants first; however, the authoritiesrefusedanyconsideration and forcedallparticipantsincludingbabies, underagechildren, and disabledparticipants to leave the venue with littleregards to findaccommodation and transportation for the majority of the participants. Young adultswho are Europeancitizenswereleftstranded and dumbfounded in the middle of the night.
The conference participantswhoarrived to the Netherlands from all over Europe and some from USA and Africa didnothaveunplannedtransportationtickets to travel back to theircountries of residence, and evenafterpresentingall the evidences of the enormity of theiractions, the authoritiesdecided to press the participants to vacate the hotel late in the evening, causingundue stress on conference participants.
For the youngEuropeanswhowerebrought to learn the sacrosanctEuropeanvalues of freedom of assembly, speech, movement and expression and the right to be treatedequally under the law, havebeenrudelyawakened to the factthatthesevalues do notapply to them. The messageDutchauthoritiessentthis weekend isthus: “being an aggressor and committingviolenceby afewpeople can pay off to reachone’s goal of disruptingmeetings of law abidingcitizens”.
Finally, the opening day of the conference was April 13 whichremindsallEritreans and Europeans with Eritreanheritageanotherday of injusticewhere the decision of the EritreanEthiopianBorderCommission (EEBC) gaveitsFinal and Bindingdecision in Den Hague, Netherlands in 2002. Justiceisstilldenied to the Eritreanpeoplewhohavebeenfightingagainst the occupation of Eritreansovereignland, with European Nations standing with the aggressive and illegal nature of the Ethiopiangovernment and continue to victimise Eritrea untilthisday.
The unfair and unjustdecision by the DutchAuthorities on 13th April 2017 to halt and evacuate the YPFDJ conference was a starkreminder of the stancetaken by the Dutchgovernment and Europeanstates to victimiseEritreans and reward the violentbullies, just like the non-implementation of the EEBC decision in Den Hague on the 13th April 2002.
The resilient, dignified and law abiding Eritreans and Europeans with Eritrean Heritage vacated the premises on the night with astoundingorganisation, compassion and solidarity for eachother and managed to stay unshaken, despite the high level of treachery and collusion of the Dutchauthorities with Professor Mirjam Van Reisen to denytheirbasic human rights and put theirsafety in danger in the middle of the night.
The organisers of YPFDJ along with allparticipants of the Conference and the vastorganised Diaspora and justiceseekingEuropeanswillseek to redress the injustice in everypossible way and willmakeitsplansclear in short period of time.
YPFDJ EuropeanOrganisingCommittee16th April 2017