A social media movement created to expose Eritrea's closed regime is gaining momentum. Driven by young Eritreans living in the United States, UK, and Europe, the 'yiakl' campaign, which means enough, is calling for an end to what they say is a repressive regime in their home country.
The people in the movement are seeking the ouster of the country's longtime President Isaias Afwerki and supporters hope it can morph into the type of people-led movement that toppled Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule in Sudan. Modeled on the viral ice-bucket challenge, people involved in the social media campaign are nominating others to take part. But instead of dousing themselves in ice cold water, the Eritreans are instead sharing videos speaking out against the President. Swedish-Eritrean activist Vanessa Tsehaye told CNN: "The #yiakl campaign gathers the frustration amongst Eritreans and shares it with the world in an attempt to mobilize people and put pressure on the Eritrean regime."
Many people have backed the movement, often speaking in their native Eritrean languages in videos that describe the conditions in a country often called the "North Korea of Africa." Some, however, have criticized the campaign for coming at the same time as the Sudan crisis where hundreds have been killed in massive protests.
Afwerki took power in Eritrea in 1993, becoming the country's first president. No elections have been held since then. There is no freedom of the press, critics of the regime have been jailed, and others have disappeared from public view for years, according to reports compiled by Human Rights Watch agency.
Eritreans who want to leave the country must get an exit visa issued by the government. Under Afwerki's regime, citizens are enlisted in national military service that's supposed to last 18 months, but can last indefinitely. Tens of thousands have fled the country by traveling treacherous migration routes to escape the forced conscription.
Many Eritreans living abroad shared tales on social media of their time in the military camps, known as Sawa, with one describing it as "a horror."