Eritrea

Country Code: 269
ISO Code: ERI/ER

The State of Eritrea (in Tigrinya: ሃገረ ኤርትራ, Hagere Ertra and in Arabic: دولة إرتريا, Dawlat Irītriyā) is a country located in the northeast of Africa. It limits the north and the west with Sudan; to the south with Ethiopia and Djibouti; the east of the country has an extensive coast with the Red Sea. Its name comes from the Greek «erythros», which means «red». It became independent in 1993 from Ethiopia, which makes it one of the youngest states in the world. Its capital and most populated city is Asmara.

The kingdom of Aksum, which covered much of what constitutes Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, arises into the first or second century and adopted Christianity shortly after this religion emerged. In Medieval times much of Eritrea falls under the rule of the Medri Bahri kingdom, a part forms the Hamasien Republic. The creation of modern Eritrea is the result of the incorporation of independent kingdoms and several vassal states of the Ethiopian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, which led to the formation of Italian Eritrea.

In 1941 Eritrea was conquered by the British Empire in the framework of the East African campaign. In 1952 it was annexed to the Ethiopian Empire to constitute the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. This forced union would lead to the war of independence of Eritrea, which concludes with the independence of the current Eritrea in 1993.

Eritrea is a state of a single political party in which national elections have repeatedly been postponed. According to Human Rights Watch, the human rights record of the Eritrean government is considered among the worst in the world. Compulsory military service requires long and indefinite recruitment periods and causes some Eritreans to leave the country. Given that all local media are state-owned, Eritrea was also classified as having the least press freedom in the world press freedom index.

HISTORY

Throughout history and until 1890, the year in which Italy colonized the territory and officially delimited it, the Eritrean area had been part of several empires and kingdoms of the region. The Kingdom of Italy created the colony of Eritrea in 1890 and maintained it until the Second World War, with the same borders it has today.

With the aim of establishing their own domain over these lands, the Italians brought a great development to the Italian Eritrea, from agriculture to basic industries, through infrastructure. Asmara, the capital of the country, was the theater of an architectural development (mainly in Art Deco) that is still today admired worldwide. By 1940 there were about 100,000 Italian settlers in Eritrea, which had repercussions on the architecture of some of its cities and the religion of its inhabitants.

In 1941 Eritrea was conquered by the British, during the course of World War II, and became part of the colonial administration of the United Kingdom. In 1952 it was federated with Ethiopia, until in 1962 the union was dissolved and Eritrea was degraded to a province.

The Eritrean resistance then acted against Ethiopia, following several conflicts that became open war in 1983. After four years, and already under the control of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea, in 1987 the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia declared Eritrea again as an autonomous region.

In 1993, after three decades of war of national liberation, Eritrea’s independence was recognized internationally. However, that did not prevent the subsequent territorial conflicts with Yemen in 1996 and the war with Ethiopia again between 1997 and 2000.

The intervention of the UN and the final establishment of borders in April 2002, by resolution of the International Court of Justice, temporarily halted the war, but Ethiopia has not yet accepted the resolution presented by the International Court of Justice. Therefore, the work of delimiting the border has not ended and the threat of war between the two countries still persists.

LANGUAGES

Today many languages are spoken in Eritrea, although there is none that has the status of an official as such, since the Constitution establishes the equality of “all Eritrean languages.” However, the Tigrinya and Arabic are the two predominant languages for official purposes. English and Italian are also used, due to the colonial past. Most of the languages spoken in Eritrea derive from the Semitic and Cushite branches of the Afro-Asian language family. The Semitic languages in Eritrea are tiger, tigrinya, the newly recognized dahlik and Arabic (spoken natively by the Rashaida Arabs); these languages (mainly tigré and tigriña) are spoken as a mother tongue by more than 80% of the population. The Cushite languages in Eritrea are very numerous, including Afar, Beja, Blin and Saho. The Kunama and Nara languages are also spoken in Eritrea and belong to the Nilo-Saharan linguistic family.

RELIGION

Eritrea has two predominant religions: Christianity, with 62.9% of followers; and Islam, which groups 36.2% of the population. Christians belong mainly to the Eritrean Orthodox Church, which is a patriarchate of the Coptic Church and represents 57.7% of the population, while there are also a considerable number of Catholics (belonging to the Eritrean Catholic Church, a Catholicism of Eastern ritual that represents 4.6% of the population). Protestantism and other Christian denominations registered as Seventh-day Adventists constitute 0.7% of the inhabitants. Most Muslims follow the Sunni branch of Islam.

Since May 2002, the Government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Coptic Church of Eritrea, Sunni Islam and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. All other religions and denominations are required to undergo a registration process, among other things, the government registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information about their members to be allowed to operate in the country. The few organizations that have complied with all of the registration requirements have not yet received official recognition.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’i, and many denominations of Protestant Christianity are not registered nor can they operate freely in the country.

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