A Sad Incident that Needs Our Immediate Attention
An Eritrean youth, Abraham Seyoum is currently in the San Diego jail. He is accused for touching the hair of 10-year-old girls. His action is interpreted as sexual harassment, and he is waiting for a trial. He has been in jail for about a year. This is a total misunderstanding due to cultural differences.
Abraham is a 25-year-old youth who is hearing impaired due to a bomb explosion he experienced in his childhood. He fled Eritrea for a better life and after a long and tiring journey, he managed to enter the USA via Mexico in 2011. While he was navigating his way in getting settled in the US and applying for his refugee status, he encountered this unexpected problem just after a month of being relieved of his exhaustive journey.
Abraham was living in a shelter administered by a church. He was playing with 8 and 10 years old girls in the same way adults play in our Eritrean culture. He touched their hair, in the same way we touch to our own or our neighbours’ children. He asked them if they wanted any treats so he could buy for them candy. But he advised them to ask permission from their parents. He had no clue what would happen. A few minutes later the police came and arrested him.
In Eritrea, children are raised not only by their parents, but also by neighbours and the village. It is common to see adults buy candy for children of their neighbours, give them a hug, touch their head and let them sit on their lap, simply to express their genuine affection. It is also common to see adults discipline the neighbours' children if they see them doing wrong. At the same time, it is the adult’s duty to protect any child from harm in their care. Eritrean society appreciates that every citizen must take responsibility in entertaining and protecting any child.
A person who is raised in such way can find it difficult to adopt the North American ways of doing things. Some immigrants are lucky to get cultural orientation about their host country before they arrive, but others are not. Abrahm Seyoum is such an unfortunate individual. He is suspected of being a child molester for touching the hair of children which is very common in the culture in which he grew up. This happened in the first month of his stay in his new home to be.
As you must understand, this is a very serious issue. If he is convicted, his life will be destroyed completely. To see an innocent person behind bars due to a cultural misunderstanding is truly tragic.
Therefore, we ask that everyone sign his/her name below so as to convince the American Justice System that what Abraham Seyoum did is very common in Eritrean culture and that he did not hold any sexual intentions behind his actions.. He was just trying to be a good man in his neighbourhood, just as he was in the neighbourhood where he was raised
Eritrean Human Rights Group