The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.
Its toponym Eritrea is based on the Greek name for the Red Sea which was first adopted for Italian Eritrea in 1890.
Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups in its population of around six million.
Most residents speak languages from the Afroasiatic family, either of the Ethiopian Semitic languages or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigrinya make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are a number of Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities. Most people in the territory adhere to Christianity or Islam.
The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, rose somewhere around the first or second centuries and adopted Christianity around the time Islam had spread through Egypt and the Levant. In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri kingdom, with a smaller region being part of Hamasien.
In 1947 Eritrea became part of a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Subsequent annexation into Ethiopia led to the Eritrean War of Independence, ending with Eritrean independence following a referendum in April 1993.
Hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia persisted, leading to the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000 and further skirmishes with both Djibouti and Ethiopia.
Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Eritrean government's human rights record is considered among the worst in the world. The Eritrean government has dismissed these allegations as politically motivated. The compulsory military service requires lengthy, indefinite conscription periods, which some Eritreans leave the country in order to avoid. Since all local media is state-owned, Eritrea was also ranked as having the least press freedom in the global Press Freedom Index.
Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, and IGAD, and is an observer in the Arab League alongside Brazil, Venezuela, India and Turkey.
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