Freshman strives to end unjust imprisonment in Eritrea



Princess Garrett

Freshman Vanessa Behre is definitely making her name known around campus through her activism for those who were unjustly imprisoned in Eritrea, Africa. I had the honor of interviewing Vanessa to find out what inspired her to raise awareness about this issue that not many people have heard about as well as why she is so passionate about it.


The Villanovan: Tell me about yourself? Where are you from, your grade, your major, any other information you would like readers to know?

Vanessa: My name is Vanessa Berhe, I am a freshman, and I am a visiting student from Sweden. 

TV: Describe your group “One Day Seyoum at Villanova.” How did you come up with the name? What is the organization’s mission?  I know your uncle inspired you to make this organization, can you tell us more about his story?

V: One Day Seyoum is an organization working to release all unjustly imprisoned people in Eritrea and to promote democracy and human rights in the country. 

When I was five years old, my uncle Seyoum Tsehaye was unjustly imprisoned in Eritrea. He is a journalist who was advocating for democracy and human rights in Eritrea. The Eritrean regime, which is considered to be one of the most ruthless governments in the world, viewed him as a threat and imprisoned him without a trial in 2001. Two years ago I started the organization One Day Seyoum to work for his release. Barely anyone knew about his situation, and I made it my mission to tell the world about his story and engage people in the struggle to release him. 

TV: What inspired you to create this group?

V: I thought it was my responsibility to use my voice and the rights that I have to speak on the behalf of people who have been silenced.

TV: What type of impact do you hope to make?

V: Our primary method is the spread of information. We believe that people need to be informed about the situation so that they can have the opportunity to do something about it. The more people we inform and get involved, the more people are putting pressure on the Eritrean regime to release him and his colleagues. Our hope is that our advocacy will spread information about not only my uncle’s situation but about the whole situation in Eritrea that is causing over 5,000 people to flee every month.

TV: What does your group do on campus? How do you plan to raise awareness?

V:  Our first activity was on Nov. 2-4. We are going to be outside the Oreo, where we will be setting up an installation and a table where people can sign the petition, participate in our photo campaign and learn more about how they can get involved. A week after that, we are having our first meeting at which we are going to plan different activities throughout the year. Our goal is to get everyone at the school to sign the petition while at the same time working to spread the story to campuses and workplaces all over the country.

TV: Is there anything else you would like us to know about you or your organization? 

V: We all have the power to make a difference. In this case, it is as simple as spreading the story. The more people who know about what is happening and who have signed the petition demanding Seyoum’s release, the bigger our impact will be. I am encouraging students to sign the petition and spread the message.  Our goal is that friends and family members of Villanova students will take this with them to their schools and workplaces.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.