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The Burden of Exile: A Banned Journalist’s Flight from Dictatorship

Written by Aaron Berhane
Published by Dundurn Press


In the strict dictatorship of Eritrea, a young reporter co-founds the first independent newspaper, publishes stories that anger the president, and then has to escape to save his life and his loved ones.

An idealistic journalist with a young family starts the first independent newspaper in the notorious police state of Eritrea — one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. When the paper is shut down, he flees arrest and begins a dangerous journey to freedom, first across a desert, at night, into Sudan, pursued by Eritrean secret police, then into secret safe houses in Kenya. With the help of the United Nations, he finds sanctuary in Canada — a place he knows nothing about. Meanwhile, his wife and young children are stuck back home, in constant danger of reprisal.

Berhane’s story is one of bravery amid complicated international geopolitics, of spies, guns, and betrayal, and — ultimately — of triumph and the piecing together of family in a cold new country.


Aaron Berhane (1969–2021) was an Eritrean Canadian journalist. Co-founder and former editor-in-chief of Eritrea’s now banned largest independent newspaper, Setit, he escaped arrest in 2001 by fleeing to Sudan, then Kenya, and subsequently settled in Canada.