Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC) and RightNow: Advocacy for Asylum Seekers in Israel hosted a joint event in Los Angeles, advocating for the Jewish and Eritrean-American communities to work together to help Eritrean refugees stuck in the Sinai desert.
The event launched the groups’ global campaign to end “human trafficking, torture, organ theft, and rape in the Sinai desert,” according to a statement put out by EYSC.
The campaign’s online petition calls on the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations to put pressure on the Egyptian and Sudanese governments to end the human trafficking of Eritrean refugees in the Sinai desert.
“Many Eritreans seek refuge in Israel, but many never arrive as they die at the hands of the brutal traffickers along the way,” the United Action for Sinai petition reads. “Many victims fall prey to traffickers in the refugee camps in Sudan as well. This is a regional issue that must be dealt with through international cooperation.”
The petition currently has over 5,500 signatures.
In a video presented during the February 10 event, Ford Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, reminded the attendees to be courageous. “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot,” he said, quoting his grandmother Eleanor.
Emotions ran high for those attending. RightNow’s Maya Paley “passionately explained the plight of refugees in Israel and the horrors of rape victims,” according to the EYSC statement. After collecting over 5,500 signatures in support of the “United Action for Sinai” petition, a coordinated lobbying campaign will now begin to compel government leaders to take immediate action in Egypt’s Sinai.
EYSC’s Yonas Hagos’ presentation included a video testimony of a young man whose hands were left severely deformed after weeks of torture, EYSC’s statement added.
According to Paley, the next step will be a coordinated lobbying campaign. The event concluded with several human rights activist, anti-human trafficking groups and other non-profit agencies agreeing to pull their resources together and work with RightNow and EYSC to coordinate their actions into a taskforce focusing on the issue.
Anne Cohen is the Forward’s deputy digital media editor. When she’s not looking for the secret Jewish history of Voodoo in New Orleans, or making lists about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she writes for The Assimilator. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism with an M.S. magazine concentration in 2012.