Inside Eritrea: conscription and poverty drive exodus from secretive African state
Residents explain why so many risk death to reach Europe, as the Guardian gains rare access to report from inside the country
The shrill blast of a whistle still makes Almaz Russom wince. “You’re sleeping nicely, dreaming something, then it wakes you at 4.30am,” he said, clenching his teeth and mimicking the pitch. “I still don’t like the sound of that whistle.”
Russom, whose name has been changed here for his own protection, was giving a rare account of a military bootcamp in #Eritrea, one of #Africa’s most secretive totalitarian states. It forms part of a compulsory “national service” for young men and women, an indefinite purgatory that robs them of the best years of their lives and is the key to understanding why so many flee its borders.