This story was originally presented in four series at Eripost, awate.com. It is condensed from a not yet published manuscript of the same title by Amanuel Sahle.
In the 1980s Asmara was a sort of military garrison. The Derg (the communist oriented Ethiopian military junta) soldiers seemed to have lost all hope of carrying on the bloody war which cost them a lot materially and psychologically. The army morale sank, and in direct proportion, the people’s morale rose. Liberation was around the corner and with it the fear that the Ethiopian soldiers might massacre the inhabitants of Asmara before they left their garrison for good.
The town was devoid of male youngsters who had fled the country either to find a safer place to live in neighboring countries, or were dragooned into the Derg’s army to fight against freedom and against their own people.
Asmara, Saturday morning, May 23, 1991. The Derg army who had been badly beaten in all fronts took Radio Asmara to propose reconciliation and understanding with the rebels, bla bla,….For thirty years they poured their venom on the rebels and their destructive pro-Arab policies, and all of a sudden their hearts began to bleed for everlasting friendship, cooperation, democracy, justice, bla, bla…
It was too late. They knew they were losers and they proved it by fleeing the town right and left, walking (throwing their boots away to ease the pain), reeling and falling down of sheer exhaustion, of hunger and thirst, hanging themselves on a nearby tree, or shooting themselves on the long journey towards the border to shorten their misery. Although the EPLF did everything to help them and to ease their burden, their past misdeeds weighed so much on their conscience that nothing short of self-punishment could give them the peace of mind that they sought and lost right from the moment they arrived in Eritrea. They came barefoot in 1952 and left barefoot in 1991.
The fighters ‘invaded’ Asmara from all sides, marching in single or double files. Some wore Palestinian-style checkered headscarves and rarely smiled.
Women ululated in the streets, although some might have wept in their dark rooms for their missing sons or daughters. The whole town rocked with the sound of delight, the cries of euphoria, the joy of unbelief, the tears of ecstasy, the dance of bliss, and the gashing of unbound emotion that made some people to kneel down and kiss the feet of the liberators. The EPLF deserved all these in those times. They brought independence to a country that had been under successive colonial powers for centuries. They will be remembered for this for a long time to come.
But some people had the presence of mind to whisper forth that which most feared to even ponder in their hearts.
“You are laughing now, but it will not be long before you will start to cry again,” said one onlooker in a whisper.
A month into the euphoria, and the Leader of the Liberation Army stood up in front of tens of thousands of overjoyed Eritreans and told the whole world that the EPLF would be relinquishing power to the people soon. Are you kidding, Issu? You think we were born yesterday?
What transpired later was however a story that should be told to future generations so that they might regard the actions and speeches of arrogant liberators as nothing more than simple perfidy and unforgivable betrayal. It was first and foremost a betrayal against our dear Martyrs!!!! May the Good Lord rest their souls in peace!
The Leader or Generalissimo did not become tyrant all of a sudden. He showed all the virulent traits while still in the field. Those who were near him and could have raised their eyebrows when they saw mischief are to blame for what is going on in Eritrea at present as they were the ones that paved the way for his appearance. They betrayed their principles and are now being treated as mere minions who never tire of licking his boots which, by the way, they find it to be very gratifying and tasty.
They say that when a bat wants to suck the blood of animals by incising their skins, it first lubricates the surface of the skin with a tranquilizing enzyme from its saliva so that the victim may not feel anything as it is being drained of its life giving fluid. What the Leader said that day would cause Eritreans to remain in a torpid and dazed state until this very day when “they are being eaten alive by the EPLF-cum-PFDJ gangs.
The last acronym stands for People’s Front for Democracy and Justice [!?]. No people (everybody is leaving the country and the rest are zombies), no Front (the leadership is now a lucrative company), no Democracy (it is an Oriental despotism pure and simple), and no Justice (people are running out of tears)!
The fighters had it nice since their arrival in Asmara and elsewhere in big or small towns. They were almost worshipped as demigods; but with the passage of time, most of the angels had changed into simple human beings and later into demons.
Since everything the fighters did in the field was to win the war and more often than not acted for sheer expediency, it didn’t take them much time to get swallowed by the civil society once they arrived in towns and were mixed with the populace and got in touch with the new realities. But this didn’t mean they had changed their biased and arrogant attitude towards the non-combatants.
To start with, most of them divorced their de-feminated wives and remarried, this time with the more feminine town girls whom they had previously (while they were in the field) labeled as prostitutes. After liberation, they circumcised their uncircumcised war children; after liberation, they baptized their unbaptised so-called Flowers of the Revolution; and they themselves melted into the towns’ social and cultural crucible, praying now to St. Mary, now to St. Michael, and to the rest of the hierarchy of Coptic Church saints and sometimes even going as far as consulting witches. Who knows, some must have even gone straight to their confessors who might have prescribed fasting or self-abnegation for them for the days they might have spent together with the enemies of their fathers’ pure religion! Both Christians and Moslems returned to their old habits and religious practices. As for the leadership, however, expediency and perfidy was still the blueprint of its policy.
Timar was seventeen in 1996, very attractive, slender and well-structured and with silky smooth brownish skin. She had the perfect structural symmetry, and walked in a strange way that made people to turn their heads. Not that she imitated some celebrities she had seen in videos, but it was simply her nature. She couldn’t help it.
Timar grew up in a village without, for a moment, adapting herself to a village life. Most probably it was because she had spent most of her time in her uncle’s small office in the village’s Catholic convent or Seminario where she learned a lot about the world and its intricacies.
However, if Timar didn’t like the EPLF it was more instinctive than analytical. But, intelligent as she was, she could not have been totally wrong in her assessment of the nature and mentality of the Organization whose policies seemed to have gone awry in the end.
Timar represents the rare Eritrean girl who dared to open her eyes. She was a rebel of sorts and what she thought and did was totally heretical to the majority of the people of her time and her surroundings. Thus she refused to be beguiled by the government’s hollow propaganda, or to be perturbed by the clamor of its blind sympathizers.
Timar, saw things clinically. She knew by instinct that one couldn’t do the right thing in the wrong way. She needn’t have to read books or treatises on political economy or statecraft to know a tyrannical state in the making when she saw one.
Timar, who lost her parents in the armed struggle, had beautiful dark, piercing eyes that seemed to look at the souls of men and at their libido. She was, as it were, a mortal replica of the Islamic houris of Paradise.
When she reached grade eight, she decided to drop out saying that she had learned more from her uncle in one year than she did for eight years in a classroom. She had somehow to help her poor grandparents by any means. So she sold hard boiled eggs to those who needed them most among the bar customers. It was said that those to whom she presented her merchandize never left without buying her eggs, and these included, strangely enough, many teenagers who in normal circumstances would have given more preference to cigarettes than to her hard boiled eggs.
Staying in a small village in the midst of fighters who went around sniffing for marriageable damsels that looked different from their de-feminated women fighters, she found life in the small village somewhat uncomfortable. But, she sold eggs like hell, and got proposals like hell. She was promised the sun and the moon, was asked to go out, was begged and entreated to give her consent… all in vain.
Her grandpa wanted to give her off for marriage to an enterprising or aspiring fighter; her grandma, on her part, wanted to see her married ‘even to a hyena’ before she died; village mothers wanted her for their fighter sons; and some desperados even thought of abducting her.
When one day one son-of-a-gun tried to grab her by the hand and dragged her towards him, she flung him to the ground and spat on his face. Another got a deep scratch on the neck; still another escaped with a serious bite to his neck.
Many love letters were torn to shreds. Many would-be poets saw their poems ridiculed. Many would-be singers crooned in vain.
As she stayed late selling hard boiled eggs to drunkards and barflies making the rounds of the various alehouses in the village, Timar would remember Tesfai whom she loved so much in the past. Unfortunately, he was arrested by the Derg soldiers, tortured but finally succeeded to escape from prison and vanished into thin air. He was a secret agent of the EPLF.
However, despite her lover’s personal attachment to the EPLF or because of it, Timar, who was a free spirit and visibly non-conformist, never liked the Organization for whose uncalled for wars against the ELF where her mother died in vain making her motherless and fatherless. She hated the Organization’s zealous and fanatic members or sympathizers in the village who thought that everything in the country including the birds and the trees belonged to the Sewra (the Revolution). She was already too smart to buy that kind of independence, one that seemed to already show traces of regimentation and despotism.
Timar was unique in her character, and as a result, only few understood her. However, those who approached her found themselves outsmarted and outwitted and totally confused.
She wore her hair short in a culture where long hair was regarded as a symbol of pure lineage. She wore blue jeans in a society where such thing was considered immoral or unbiblical. She was a sort of an Eritrean hippie born in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
She hated regimented life and marriage and religious fanaticism and backward culture and above all she hated power politics which left her fatherless, motherless and lonely.
Well, there was nothing for her to do in the village anymore. Bored of the monotonous life which tried her indomitable spirit, and not one to care about freedom that smelled of despotism and communism especially in a small village like hers, she decided to move and face the world in her own terms. Her first trip took her to Asmara.
On the way to Asmara by a squeaking bus, Timar could see the ‘rotting’ carcasses of army trucks and armored vehicles, some blown out others burned down; check points manned by relaxed soldiers, and from time to time fighters on leave asking for a lift. It was a strange habit of the fighters to ask and do things for free. For when they were in the field, they lived a life comparable to the early stage of human social life. Everything belonged to everybody else. Too bad, they lost this habit after liberation and adopted one that was diametrically opposed to it.
With looks like hers, it didn’t take long for Timar to find a job in a snack bar owned by a certain matron named Haregu who had made good money during her stay in Jeddah. (PART 1)
The day Timar began her work in earnest, there was a noticeable increase in the number of people who frequented the snack bar. Among them was of course combatants, who never despaired of one day stealing her heart. To make the competition even tighter, men with cars, would-be Romeos, town playboys, dirty old men, sugar daddies, etc. entered the bitter battle for Timar’s heart.
The candidates would come around ten in the morning or around three in the afternoon, when the room was rather empty with only one or two customers sipping their tea quietly. They would order tea or sandwich and the moment Timar brought it on a tray, they would whisper at her to sit by their side for a while and would begin their courting. She would oblige them just to break the monotony that characterized her new job.
Well, to come to the various suitors, their strategies were as different as their background, their social standing, their salaries, their marital status and, of course, their age. But they had one thing in common. They all, without exception, told lies, nothing but lies; the more honest among them limiting themselves to simple exaggeration and hyperbole.
A guy by the name of Alem arrived, sat at a table near the window and ordered milk. When Timar brought it on a tray, he told her to sit by his side.
He used the most effective tool of kindness and generosity, accompanied by promises of taking Timar with him to America as soon as his visa was ready. He had to create a fantasy world of his own, where all his aunts, on his mother’s side, lived in Sweden; where a relative was a general in the Ethiopian army, and he himself followed distance economics course from the University of London. And in the event she promised to marry him, he would sell his villa in Massawa and buy her car.
Then along came a friend of Alem, a member of the Pentecontalist Church. He ordered tea, and went through the same ritual.
His promises were more ethereal than real. He wanted to go to heaven with her and sing along with the angels in the sky. He wanted to share the special gift of the Holy Spirit with her and assured her that Jesus would fulfill all her wishes for the asking. And in the event that she promised to marry him, he would ask the Holy Spirit to take them to America.
But of all the suitors that harassed Timar, no one was more boorish and dangerous than the liberation fighter who went by the name of Weddi Mannu.
Weddi Mannu was a good fighter in his days, but he didn’t get what he deserved for his bravery or maybe for his bravado. He used to say that he shot down three enemy fighter planes in one battle. But, he didn’t as much as get a pat on the back from the EPLF leadership. His bravery was dismissed as an obligation and a duty required of any fighter. He should have used his anti-aircraft missile to bring down one of the leaders instead!
He married while in the field to a woman whom he said had killed and humiliated men in various bloody encounters. He now wanted to marry a real woman who could raise his male children without killing their manhood in the process. How low can you get!
He worked with the Security and always carried a handgun.
This guy, the first time he saw Timar in the snack bar, steeped as he was in the PFDJ’s culture of arbitrary actions and lack of responsibility, decided to force her to love him. A girl who slept with the Derg soldiers all her life should be honored to be the wife of a freedom fighter, he thought.
He told Timar that he lived in a villa which belonged to a rich Italian, and that his brother in Holland would soon send him a Land Cruiser.
When after three days of ‘propaganda campaign’ undertaken to woo her, he failed to make any visible change in her attitude, he resorted to intimidation.
“You see Timar, the war is over, but since we are a small nation, our neighbors are a menace, especially those who covet our strategic position in the Horn of Africa….”
Timar couldn’t care less. The bellicose nature of the PFDJ was not new for her. Soon would they start antagonizing their neighbors one by one. War and strife is the leadership’s modus vivendi, and bragging and arrogance, its modus operandi.
“One day the government may want you youngsters to fight in order to defend the country. We have already done our share, and now it is your turn to suffer and to die for your country,” he concluded.
Timar showed signs of irritation. This man seemed to enjoy seeing people suffer. Deep inside he simply felt frustrated that Timar and her likes slept with the enemy soldiers while he slugged it out with them in the filed.
“You see Timar, I know exactly where you live, because it is my job to spy on people,” he said by way of intimidating her. “You don’t know how safe you would be if you simply promise to marry me,” he suggested.
Here was a man, more dangerous than the hyenas she met at night in her village, hyenas that a loud shout or a bright light sent howling away. How is it possible to ward off the evil intentions of men like Weddi Mannu? This man could even go over to her house and kill her.
She thought of calling Haregu for help, but she knew somehow that people like Weddi Mannu didn’t have much consideration for non-combatants much less a woman like Haregu who, according to them, might have spent her days prostituting with Arabs in the Middle East. So Timar decided to take action that might shelter her from Weddi Mannu’s evil intentions.
“Okay, but you don’t have to rush things,” she said. ”Let me think about it.”
Weddi Mannu seemed very much pleased. At least he got what he wanted. He frightened her into considering a possible marriage. The next move was to make continuous surprise visits to her house, until she would crack and succumb.
The next day, around 10 am Weddi Mannu strolled into the snack bar. This time he was with a friend who wore a checkered headscarf sported by most freedom fighters for some years following the liberation of Asmara. The moment Timar saw him at the door, she feigned stomach ache and scurried out of the snack bar and headed towards the bathroom that stood about twenty meters away from the kitchen. Weddi Mannu seemed to have noticed her as she left the kitchen. He said nothing for the time being.
They ordered a bowl of ful (crushed peas mixed with butter) each and downed it with a papaya juice. Haregu kept on stealing glances at them. They had a sinister look about them. Haregu didn’t like what was going on. She felt that trouble was brewing. She kept looking over her shoulder at the two strangers who now seemed nervous and restless.
“Why do you keep staring at us? Haven’t you ever seen freedom fighters before?” growled Weddi Mannu.
“I beg your pardon?” asked Haregu politely.
“You heard me loud and clear! Well, on second thought you couldn’t have seen liberation fighters as you were busy running around with Derg soldiers to make money,” he explained.
“If you think you were the only one who fought against the enemy, you are mistaken. Haven’t it ever occurred to you that every Eritrean fought in his or her own way for his or her own country,” she retorted.
“Maybe the fighting took place on a bed with Derg soldiers, as you haggled about prices…” he continued.
“Well, didn’t someone tell you that you left for the field not to liberate the country but because the only bed on which you slept with your brothers and sisters was not wide enough to accommodate the whole lot of you?” she replied.
At this point, Weddi Mannu couldn’t control himself. He stood up and reached for his handgun and pointed it at Haregu, his eyes red shot with fury. Fortunately, his friend who had more sense of fairplay shouted at him to stop and made him to sit down.
”You old bitch, I honored myself and my country by struggling for 30 years, while you sold your body to the enemy,” he foamed at the mouth.
“So you fought expecting one day to come to Asmara and run about with young girls like Timar?” rejoined Haregu.
“That’s enough!” hollered the friend of Weddi Mannu. ”You are insulting the Sewra (Revolution) and it may cost you dearly,” he warned Haregu.
“I am sorry, but it is him who is desecrating our noble Sewra by frightening a little girl whose mother was martyred for her country,” clarified Haregu.
Suddenly, the man’s face dropped and he looked confused. He told Weddi Mannu to get up and they both left without saying a word.
In the end Timar came to realize that the only way out was to stay with her old time friend Alem (who lived in a tenement houses, kanshelo, in the outskirt of Asmara), closer to a tough guy for safety, and in a crowded place for psychological reasons.
The other choice, that of going back to her village, was not considered safe as it would encourage Weddi Mannu to do things with impunity in an Eritrean peasant society where boys are preferred over girls, the latter being raised to finally get married and have children.
Part 3 July 22
Kafil was another suitor who was destined to have the same fate. He had fought alongside the ELF before the latter disbanded and dispersed. Fortunately, he changed sides on time and was pardoned and brought into the EPLF’s fold. But it seemed that the EPLF never trusted such converts completely. Such proselytes or apostates had therefore to prove themselves trustworthy by showing more zeal in defending the Party and its policies than in serving the people.
He saw Timar at the usual snack bar and got enough information about her to ask her to come to his office on Friday, 2 pm because he “wanted to help her find out about her mother’s place of martyrdom and resting place”.
Timar agreed and on the said day went to the rendezvous. After searching for the his office in a maze of corridors and dark stairs in a renovated building, she could finally locate it. No pointing signs on the walls. No names on doors. Timar had to ask the janitor and the cleaners to direct her to Kafil’s office.
The secretary, who was EPLF-bred and arrogant to the marrow, didn’t care to look up and see who was standing in front of her. For all she cared it could have been a suicide-bomber or a vampire. She made a quick glance but then kept on with her chatting on the phone and wouldn’t care if the ‘Derg’s prostitute’ had dropped dead on the spot. Could it be that Timar, with her casual dress and easygoing manners, brought forth all the negative forces in the secretary?
“Can’t you see I am talking on the phone? What do you want?” she barked finally.
“I have appointment with Kafil” said Timar in a depressed voice.
The secretary smelled a rat. What could the boss have in common with a creep like Timar?
”Weddi Russom! Do you have appointment with some girl?” she shouted across the room. When she got a positive reply, she waved Timar to proceed and followed her every step with her inquisitive eyes.
Kafil, who was also known as Weddi Russom, sat behind an oversized table talking on the phone, interspersing his sentences with Arabic loan words. He would laugh now and then, showing his rather yellowish teeth, a result of too much tobacco and alcohol. He looked like he owned the country and the inhabitants thereof.
After the usual greetings, he bade Timar to sit down and in the course of the conversation that followed he said some lofty words regarding her mother, how they came to know each other, how much he loved her, how much he was devastated when she was killed in battle, how she died like a hero, etc. And then he put several questions to her, with a view to getting as much information as he could for his daily report. Timar was careful not to say anything about Weddi Mannu. She didn’t want to complicate matters.
“If it is possible, I would have liked to go to Germany,” she said finally, hoping wrongly or rightly he would take pity on her because of her slain mother.
“Why Germany?” asked Kafil.
“Because, a friend of mine lives there?” she stammered.
She told him about Tesfai, how he was tortured as an EPLF agent by the Derg soldiers and how later he managed to escape from prison to finally disappear completely from her sight, but not from her heart.
“What’s his name again? And whom did he work for?” asked Kafil rather surprised.
“His name is Tesfai. I told you that he worked as secret agent for EPLF, and I heard that he is now in Germany,” she said sheepishly.
“Er….Tesfai, Tesfai who? ……any nickname?” he looked at her.
“They called him Weddi Blatta,” she said.
“Oh, Weddi Blatta, …Okay, I knew him a long time ago…..but how did he manage to go to Germany?” he asked.
“You are more in a position to know than I am,” she replied.
Kafil paused for some time, pensive and then looked at her.
“In what way is he related to you?” he asked.
“I told you he was a friend…. a real friend,” she stammered.
“Aha…..I see……you mean he was your lover?” he asked rather nervously.
“The only person I loved and still love in this world,” she asserted.
Kafil didn’t like the idea that young Eritreans migrated to Europe when the country needed them most. But he was simply lying. The EPLF never considered the non-combatants as real citizens. The new independence seemed to have been tailor-made for them only. Eritrean youngsters who had stayed with the enemy during the armed struggle were expendable, to be used in battles and skirmishes that the bellicose government in power helped to bring about.
The brazen faced Kafil didn’t hesitate to tell Timar that true democracy had it origin with the EPLF who practiced it in the field. Rule by the people, from the people, to the people. But the PFDJ-style democracy he was bragging about was, to tell the truth, the antithesis of democracy where opposition in all its forms, even in the form of thoughts and dreams, was forbidden. It was said of the EPLF that even non-opposition was frowned upon in the field. Keeping quiet was a prelude to an oncoming opposition! A lull before the storm, to put it correctly. EPLF’s democracy was simply a rule, or more befittingly, a misrule, by the party, for the party, to the party.
He told her that there was more freedom of thought and freedom of movement in Eritrea than in all the countries of the worlds combined. He told her that Eritrea would soon be the Singapore of Africa. He told her that the EPLF’s war machine was so effective that even America (let alone Russia) trembled before Eritrean fighters, etc…A little while and Badme would bring him back to his senses!
Timar wanted to leave before she had her brain blown up with so much lies and propaganda. Kafil, however, wanted another similar meeting. But Timar knew that subsequent meetings would probably lead to easy familiarity and intimacy, which could again pave the way to fresh ideas and indecent proposals. She declined the offer and asked him, if he wanted, to visit her at Haregu’s snack bar, any time.
She said good bye and left. As she walked across the room in her unique gait, the secretary was still chatting on the phone. She then looked up and nodded at Timar mechanically with a haughty and arrogant movement of the head. Good bye ex-whore!
To make a long story short, Timar did finally get married to a rich man from Jeddah by the name of Iyassu, twenty years older than her. Haregu was, of course, the matchmaker. The wedding feast took place in EmbaSoira Hotel. Kafil was naturally invited as Haregu wanted to play it safe.
Kafil arrived with his secretary, who had previously mistaken Timar for a simple whore. But when now she saw her in her best, looking like a morning star, she turned green with envy and red with anger. She became much angrier, however, when she noticed the stupid Kafil going bananas over her. She hated the Revolution. She would see more of it later on, enough to make her cross the border to Ethiopia.
During the Tigrinya dance at the Imperial Hotel in which the suwa (local beer) and the whisky did their part, the band played the whole night, the singers howled and barked. In the din and clamor, one prominent member of the Party chanced to catch sight of Timar. He couldn’t resist her charm.
Weddi Mannu was also there. Dancing and drinking. Drinking to forget his past sins. Drinking more and more to forget that he was a turncoat. As he shuffled his feet and shook his shoulders to the beat of the drum, his mind must have wandered to the early days when he, as an EPLF fighter, drank dimu dimu (high octane rice-based drink brewed in the field, and compared to which the common whiskey is but an apple juice) following a bloody victory or a bloodless retreat. The EPLF fighters danced to celebrate any occasion. Any incident was worth dancing. Now, it has even become an obsession! The nation that dances together, stays together!
When the music turned into tango, Weddi Mannu asked Timar to dance with him. She accepted rather half-heartedly, for she neither knew how to dance the tango nor was she in the mood at the time.
As Weddi Mannu hugged her and drew her close to him, Iyassu, the bridegroom, never showed any kind of irritation. Wasn’t Timar privileged to get hugged by the leaders of the Revolution? If it were in his power, Iyassu would have easily offered Timar to the Boss for an overnight enjoyment.
But Timar was not happy. She felt very much irritated. She never liked dancing much less with people in authority. She hated all those who were steering the country to its doom with their irresponsible and adventurous policies .
Weddi Mannu wouldn’t leave her alone. He kept dancing every round. Finally, the suwa getting the better of him, he asked her to go upstairs with him, to the hotel bedrooms. Timar refused categorically. He tried to grab her by the hand and drag her along. The friends intervened and asked her to disappear among the dancing crowd or if that failed to go to her wedding suite. She refused both offers. Finally, Iyassu had to interfere and persuaded her to listen to reason.
The Leader was also there. He seemed to have liked the feast. He was also impressed by Timar’s beauty. But he is not a womanizer. It is said that he had never had a real youth life. He had never been a teenager and never run after girls. He skipped that age to ‘think and contemplate’ about his country Eritrea, although that was not, strictly speaking, his “real” country. He was too absorbed in the injustices perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime of Haile Sellasie to think about chicks and Saturday night parties; it never crossed his mind then that he would continue what his predecessors had perpetrated, filling the country with injustice to the brim.
During her stay at the EmbaSoira hotel where she joined Iyassu’s friends for a week-long dining and wining, Timar was more often than not the center of attraction. Some Eritreans from the Diaspora even made bold passes at her. They promised that they would take her with them to Europe or America if she consented to dump her old man and marry them. Some of the foreign investors, thinking that girls from a poor nation were easy lays made suggestive remarks at her and went even as far as asking the manager to work as a middleman for their dirty project.
Some EPLF party members also played their part. They approached Timar and asked her if she could work as a spy for them in the Diaspora. Being attractive, she could lure and snare any troublemaker that the Organization decided to silence. She refused. She wouldn’t think of it even in her wildest dreams.
When two weeks after the wedding, Timar and her husband moved to Germany, it was logical that they would continue holding extra wedding feasts in that country too. Dinner was given now and then just so they could invite friends and talk politics. Unfortunately, in one of such longwinded dinners things didn’t just go right.
One Sunday evening a guy named Yonas was there. A chatter box by nature and a firebrand of the Party to boot. The irritating thing about him was however that he thought he knew everything under the sun. And he seemed to have underestimated Timar.
“Timar, you seem to have a low opinion of our culture. Don’t you think so? You seem to hate dancing altogether. For example, I heard that you didn’t take part in the Tigrinya dance during your wedding day? Have you?” he ventured.
“Well, talking about culture, I think discipline, self-integrity, honesty, justice, respect for the fair sex and for the elders, including chastity are but few of the virtues that are supposed to be the supporting pillars of our culture,” she clarified.
Yonas was caught off guard. What was she trying to say? Was she indirectly attacking some of the Party members?
“Do you mean that we are not practicing those virtues in our country or that we did not practice them in the Sewra?” he wanted to know.
Exactly, that’s what I mean. Now, the culture of dancing seems to have overshadowed all other cultures in Eritrea. The virtues that our forefathers bequeathed to us seem to be completely forgotten. These days, when most Eritreans talk about culture, it simply means the culture of dancing and probably the culture of fighting,” she told him.
Yonas thought for a moment. He stared at the half-filled glass of whisky lying on the table, held it up between his shaking fingers and emptied it with one gulp and then refilled.
”Well, you cannot comment on the Revolution because you never participated in the struggle anyway,” he started to attack.
“My mother who was with the ELF died so that you might monopolize the Sewra and the credulous masses,” she retorted.
“Very good! Now it has become all the more clear for me to assume that you are a spy on CIA’s payroll,” he blurted.
“If I were in the field, you would have already killed me, wouldn’t you? …because that was how you got rid of those who challenged you” and then she added: “By the way, do you think that your crimes will remain concealed forever?”
Yonas warned the bridegroom to stop his bride. But knowing Timar there was nothing Iyassu could do at the moment. However, when he sensed that the confrontation was going out of hand, he told Timar to stop it, to which she replied that since she was in a free country she could say whatever she wanted to say, and that if he was still afraid to express his views, she only felt pity for him.
Meanwhile, things were happening fast in Eritrea. The country was now becoming more isolated with the passage of time. People in high government posts began to flee the country. The Boss, now labeled as enfant terrible of East Africa, seemed to lose touch with reality. He attacked the West and antagonized his neighbors. Unable to calm his guilt-laden[U1] conscience by drinking, he finally moved his ‘administration’ to the port city of Massawa. People wished he had moved further out into the sea!
By this time, Yonas had already finished his report about his findings regarding Timar, including her thoughts and her activities. It was therefore time to excommunicate her. The PFDJ cadres had therefore determined that talking to Timar was dangerous to one’s political and social health.
Every Eritrean with a disease in his or her heart was now against Timar. She was labeled as a prostitute, a sellout, a whore, a CIA agent, a lesbian, a mentally deranged, as the scum of Eritrean society, as a disgrace to her country and to her people, etc..
Timar refused to budge. The more she contemplated on the Eritrean situation in the Diaspora, the more she became determined to stick to her guns
By this time it was clear to her that most Eritrean asylum seekers, after getting their papers, contacted the Eritrean Embassy, asked to be forgiven and became the mouthpiece of the PFDJ in Europe. It is like the dog who returns to his own vomit. When she asked to know the reason, she was told that most were of dubious origin meaning they were not pure Eritreans and thus wanted to prove that they were indeed Eritreans by harassing and tormenting genuine Eritrean dissenters.
Others unable to endure the psychology of isolation that the PFDJ applied and still apply in order to punish the ‘betrayers of the Revolution’ had to perform the mea culpa before the Eritrean government representatives at the Consulate. Still others had vested interests in the country and did not want to lose this house or that villa after the death of a father or a mother, for no one is allowed to see his beloved Eritrea unless and only if his or her papers are put in order following a self-inflicted political and financial flagellation performed at the Embassy.
And there are those who play the patriotic by disparaging the amenities and privileges they enjoy in the country which has accepted them. One such was a certain ungrateful acquaintance of Timar, named Habte, who had just got his papers in Sweden.
“By the way, they say that the Swedes are pagans and don’t believe in God, …they don’t go to church…..they are hedonists…, is that true?” he asked her for clarification.
“You run away terrified from a country that claims to be the first among the earliest Christian countries of the world, and of all the places you choose a country you consider pagan to give you a new life and hope. What kind of double standard is this?” challenged Timar.
And then she continued and said that everything boils down to the principle of human rights. Here are people who give priority to human rights and the wellbeing of not only their own people but of those who come to their shores for protection. Don’t you think, therefore, that these people are to be considered as acting more in conformity with the Will of God than those who spend their time worshipping and praising God but do nothing to alleviate the wretchedness and misery of their own people and that of their neighbors?
But Habte begged to differ. He said that when it came to the treatment of men in general, the Swedes have laws that make slaves out of men in favor of women.
“That is unacceptable!” he objected.
“It is not a question of gender, but again of human rights,” corrected Timar and continued to explain. “If you accept the concept of the principle of human rights, then the question of gender equality simply comes under it. If you really believe in the principle of human rights then gender equality should not bother you unduly, because women are human beings like you and deserve to be respected as such. Or do you want one human right for men and another human right for women?”
At this juncture Habte resorted to the only ammunition he had at hand and said that the Bible taught otherwise and that God never intended women to be equal with men. He quoted from Genesis and from Corinthians to make his point.
To which Timar replied:
“If you have read Deuteronomy (in the Bible) carefully, you will come to learn that in the tributes of war exacted by the victor, women came after donkeys in the list of items to be handed over. Hence, if we have to follow the Bible literally in all our activities and dealings, then the world would be full of slaves, racists, exorcists, astrologers, inquisitors, pedophiles, and we would have capital punishment, Draconian laws, genocide, suicide bombers, mass executions, religious wars, superstition, obscurantism, tyrants, monarchs, cruelty to animals, etc. because all these are recorded in the Bible!”
Habte didn’t like the explanation. He never expected Timar to talk that way. He had read the Bible many times over, and he had a very deep respect for it. And all of a sudden there comes along a country-bred girl with 8th grade education trying to challenge the world’s holiest book.
“I think your uncle the priest must have taught you a lot of strange things,” ventured Alem.
Timar told him that her uncle was an iconoclast, that he had a very critical view of everything including the Scriptures. She told him that in spite of that, he was just and had total respect for the views of others even if it differed from his views or from the accepted views of his church.
Timar hated, furthermore, those who, while living in a democratic country and enjoying all the rights and amenities that the host country provided them, stupidly supported a government at home that brooked no opposition, that ruled the country without constitution, without freedom of press and without parliament. She thought that such people were nothing but murderers of their own people and should be held responsible for all that went wrong in Eritrea.
Timar and her new German husband (she had divorced Iyassu for obvious reasons) are now consecrating most of their time collecting proofs and evidences, trying to unmask former EPLF cadres and officials who have blood in their hands and are walking free in the streets of European and American towns, including those who had tortured Eritrean dissenters of all types and who are living happily in foreign lands enjoying the freedom and human rights and other democratic privileges that they themselves unlawfully deprived those who trusted them.
Undeterred by the clamor of the PFDJ cadres and sympathizers, the indefatigable Timar is still trying her best to rehabilitate well-meaning young and old Eritreans of all walks of life in the Diaspora, whom people like Weddi Mannu, Kafil and Yonas had, through their ignorance, opportunism and selfishness almost succeeded to destroy.