There are an estimated 451,000 people living in modern slavery in Eritrea (GSI 2018). The small country has a unique system of compulsory, open-ended military service for citizens that makes it one of the most oppressive states in the world. The government has enforced its current policy of sending all secondary school students to serve for a minimum of twelve months since 2003. While Eritrean law puts the minimum conscription age at 18, many teenagers find themselves recruited during high school at age 16 or even younger. In rural areas, where formal education is rarer, the army will visit villages to round up young girls and boys who look roughly of age, to begin their program of combat training and forced labour.
Suliman was 15 when he was caught trying to flee Eritrea and imprisoned. He was subjected to interrogation and torture before he was released and able to leave the country.
When I was 15, I tried to flee the country towards the Sudanese border. I was caught and put in Prison 35 in Teseney for 2 years.
I was interrogated and tortured until my right leg was broken. It was an underground prison. I was released from prison in January 2013. I went into hiding fearing that they would put me back in prison. In May 2013 I managed to cross the border and leave Eritrea. There were 3 other minors in the prison with me during my stay.
My mother had passed away when I was younger. Three of my brothers were doing indefinite national service. I had nobody to support me.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Concern Eritrea