A new report on Eritrea published by Human Rights Watch documents the devastating effects of the conscription system on the lives of young Eritreans.
In Eritrea, all secondary school students —male and female— are forced to undergo military training to complete their final year. They are sent to Sawa military camp where they follow a schedule combining secondary school classes with compulsory military training.
At the end of the year, they are either forced to join the army or attend vocational training programmes or further education. If they attend training or further education they are conscripted to work for the government in a civilian capacity later.
Military training and national service are mandatory for all male and female Eritreans. Although Eritrean law limits national service to 18 months, the reality is that conscription can be indefinite. Many Eritreans have spent their entire working lives at the service of the government, as either part of the military or in a civilian capacity. Others who have been able to flee the country spend their lives in exile. As Human Rights Watch reports, many of those fleeing are aged 18 to 24.