Born in Los Angeles and raised in Eritrea, Ciham Ali had big dreams. A fan of Lady Gaga and Green Day, she was determined to become a fashion designer when she grew up. But at 15, her hopes were shattered.
On 8 December 2012, Ciham was arrested at the Sudan border as she tried to flee Eritrea. Her father Ali Abdu, then foreign minister under President Isaias Afwerki, had gone into exile just as the military attempted a coup against the government. The rumour was that Ali Abdu had supported the coup and Ciham may have been arrested in retaliation.
Nine years on and no one – not even her family – knows where Ciham is being held. She hasn’t been charged, nor has she been brought to trial. It’s as if she’s vanished. Eritrea is notorious for imprisoning people in underground containers where they suffer extreme cold and heat. There are reports of many people dying from torture, starvation, infection and other appalling treatment in these jails. While other children her age might have headed to college, Ciham has been suffering unknown horrors.
Although she’s a US citizen, Ciham has been ignored by the US government. So far, they’ve remained silent on her plight, even though they have the power to influence Eritrea.
Tell the USA to speak out for Ciham.