But Ali Ahmed was imprisoned at 15 years old. Now, six years later, her family says they don't know where she is or what has happened to her since she was detained by Eritrean security forces while trying to leave the country.
The Eritrean-American citizen has never been charged or convicted of any crime, yet it's believed she's been languishing in an Eritrean prison since December 2012.
April 3 is her birthday and, as she turns 22, Human Rights Watch
has called on the Eritrean government to free her and other political prisoners held in the country.
"By holding [Ali Ahmed] incommunicado from the age of 15, the government has effectively disappeared her," Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at the rights group, said in a statement.
"The release of Ciham and all of Eritrea's political prisoners would send a clear message to the international community that the country's leaders are embarking on a new path of increased respect for human rights," he added.
Campaigners from the Eritrean diaspora such as "One Day Seyoum"
have launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #happybirthdayciham. to draw attention to Ali Ahmed's story.
Her uncle, Saleh Younis told CNN in 2018 that his niece -- a dual US and Eritrean national born in Los Angeles to Eritrean parents -- was trying to leave the country because of Eritrea's policy of forced national military service for young people beginning at age 18.
Eritrea, often described as the "North Korea of Africa," has never had a national election; there is no free press and citizens are not allowed to leave without an exit visa issued by the government.
Forced national military service, which is supposed to last 18 months, can last indefinitely.