What These Shipping Containers Are Being Used For Will Make You Sick
Right now, shipping containers are being used to violate the basic human rights of thousands of people.
We’ve posted before about uses of shipping containers for purposes other than transporting cargo imports and exports around the world. Often, these uses are innovative and fun to think about.
Shipping containers have been used to create some very impressive, modern homes as well as chic restaurants, coffee shops, and stores. Shipping containers have been used to create art, display art, and we even posted a blog counting down the top 9 movie scenes featuring shipping containers.
In 2012, the devastating and deadly Hurricane Sandy inspired designs to use shipping containers as emergency housing. Such a humanitarian use of shipping containers contrasts starkly with how shipping containers are being used in the country of Eritrea.
There, shipping containers are being used as prisons to hold politically and religiously persecuted people. Prisoners locked in these un-furbished shipping container prisons receive no trial and are not even officially charged with crimes. However, they are being detained indefinitely in extremely harsh conditions, completely cut off from family and friends.
In 2013, I posted a blog here about shipping container jail cells in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. But the Eritrean shipping container prisons are nothing like those of Victoria. In Victoria, the shipping container cells are fitted with showers, cupboards, basins, beds…
The shipping container prisons of Eritrea are atrocious.
None of the above mentioned amenities are added to the Eritrean shipping container cells that may be stuffed with 20, 30, or even more prisoners. The below video from Amnesty International highlights how appalling these prisons are.
Though I hadn’t heard of these Eritrean shipping container prisons until yesterday, they have been around for a long time. The above video is actually 5 years old.
Despite the fact that the existence of these abhorrent prisons has been known for years, there seems to be virtually no outcry against them in the international community. The most likely place you’d hear about them right now is from Christian groups, blogs, and news sources because Christian sects in Eritrea have suffered mass incarcerations in these inhumane shipping container prisons but some were just set free.
It was an article headline from RNS — Religion News Service, a news source that focuses on religion-related stories — that inspired me to find out about Eritrean shipping container prisons and write this post. The headline read, “Eritrean Christians released from shipping container prisons.” While RNS isn’t narrowed in its reporting to only Christian related stories, this story was picked up by several Christian websites for obvious reasons.
While the headline is certainly good news, it hardly felt like it as the story’s lead is immediately followed by a “but”:
Eritrean Christians and human rights advocates are cheering the release of 35 Christian prisoners as a new peace pact between Eritrea and Ethiopia takes hold this month. But hundreds remain imprisoned in Eritrea under harsh conditions stemming from a war in which members of Christian sects were targeted for mass incarceration.
For the last two decades, Eritrean authorities have persecuted religious groups, frequently arresting church leaders and detaining them in small shipping container prisons where advocates say they’re routinely deprived of water, food, proper sanitation and medicines.
According to the RNS article, Eritrea “is believed to be holding between 1,200 and 3,000 people on religious grounds.” That’s actually a small number compared to the amount of political prisoners believed to be held by Eritrea. Back in 2013, Amnesty International published an article that says:
…at least 10,000 political prisoners have been imprisoned by the government of President Isaias Afewerki, who has ruled since the country’s independence in 1993. With no known exception, not a single political prisoner has ever been charged with a crime or tried, has had access to a lawyer or been brought before a judge or a judicial officer to assess the legality and necessity of their detention.
It almost seems miraculous that those 35 Christian prisoners were released. Salem Solomon wrote an article in Voice of America (VOA) that quotes an Eritrean man calling the prisons “Enda Hawya” — which is a village in a dark Eritrean fairy tale that people go in but never come out.
That man would know. His brother was Haile “Durue” Woldensae, who fought for Eritrea’s freedom from Ethiopia. According to Solomon’s article, Durue was imprisoned in 2001 and never seen again.
Reportedly, Durue died. But those reports, which seem more like social media rumors in February of this year, have not been substantiated because of the secret nature of the Eritrean prisons.
One would think a man who fought for a country’s freedom would be treated as a hero by that country. Not in Eritrea. Solomon writes “some of the nation’s founders have been held without trial for more than 16 years.”
It’s time for these so-called secret prisons to be brought to light and for the international community to help get these unjustly held people out of their shipping container prisons and back to their families.