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Twenty-five-year-old Shukri Shafe Guled comes from the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia, but has been living in Australia since 2010. In June 2016, he and other protesters gathered in Melbourne to demonstrate against the visit of an Ethiopian delegation that included the Somali Regional State president, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, known as Abdi Iley, who is accused of human rights abuses back home.
Guled explains pro-government supporters took his photograph and told him that “within 15 minutes,” they would “punish” his relatives living in Ethiopia. He says his three brothers were detained that day, and have not been heard from since.
Guled says his sister and his elderly mother were detained for about a month.
Human Rights Watch Horn of Africa senior researcher Felix Horne says the Ethiopian government arrested and detained dozens of relatives of the people who protested that day in Australia and is still holding many of them four months later.
It’s a practice that’s been occurring in the Somali Regional State for a number of years, he says.
“So this is something that’s been happening a lot, where there’s this collective punishment, of the whole society, those individuals who do not support the government and are not connected to the ONLF [Ogaden National Liberation Front] in any way are being targeted and we’re now seeing that happening in Australia and other places as well,” said Horne. “It’s a major problem.”
WATCH: HRW video