Monday , September 24 2018
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Finally Vindication!

The last week, since September 1, 2018, has been very difficult for me. It was a roller coaster trip of painful memories that I suppressed to avoid disrupting anything I was doing. Since the first day, I thought of setting up a website with lofty goals. Initially, I thought Eritreans deserved an alternative voice. The PFDJ voice was drowning any voice that doesn’t comply with its vision, and with the goals of its leader whose deceptive plans are being exposed with every passing day. Now I feel vindicated, though the feeling has been building up to its gradual culmination by yesterday morning.

In 1999 when I was deciding on the branding of the website, I had to identify what were the problems at the time as I saw them. Deciding on how to position was difficult and needed a conscious gambling. And I concluded that our problems increased because we abandoned the reasons for which the Eritrean struggle was launched. My findings convinced me to settle for the Awate brand name and I tried to position it on the ideals for which the great man stood: a positioning strategy built on the idea of reconciliation. Thereafter, it was natural for the band to derive its strength from the name Awate as an icon, an appealing logo that represented our long struggle for freedom. Undoubtedly, the man was revered by all Eritreans worth their salt; the rest was just fed with negative propaganda that made them resist the Awate brand.

One thing that needs mentioning is that my background is marketing. And before I abandoned the profession for reasons that had a lot to do with the 1998-2000 border war, and the cruel punishment I received at the hands of both the Eritrean and Ethiopian government, the vilification and defamation I had to endure, my familiarity with branding, positioning, and advertising came handy—I used my experience in establishing and running awate.com. Also, being wronged not by one, but by two governments, added to my zeal, and I sensed that I was standing on the right and firm spot.

Thereafter, I was determined to endure more abuses by the PFDJ and its satellites. Undoubtedly, I was sure that at the end, Hamid Idris Awate will be vindicated because his ideas were the core of Eritreanism. In addition, I was sure Awate was neither provincial nor sectarian and certainly not a highway bandit—sad descriptions that were attached to his name and sustained over the years by relentless propaganda campaigns. At the core of the subtle propaganda and vilification of Hamid Idris Awate Isaias and his obsession to be considered the father of Eritrea, the only person who mattered in the making of modern Eritrea, sidelining his teachers, his mentors, and his recruiters who made him join the struggle in the first place. And he was aware he had an uphill battle ahead of him; destroying the name of Awate was not an easy feat, but he has been trying his best (with some success) for many years,

Introduction to the risk within the struggle

When I joined the struggle at a very young age, I came across a barrage of anti-Isaias information that I had difficulty accepting. Naively, I suspected those who narrated stories about him were jealous people who were driven by personal hate and grudges—I never imagined he could be this bad. In fact, I argued vehemently against the negative stories I heard about Isaias. Yet, I maintained an ignorant, misinformed and a bit dismissive attitude. Now, it has been a while since I recognized my naivete and wrong understanding of the situation. It was a crooked understanding that made it difficult for me to accept that one person, even if an opportunity availed itself, could wreak havoc in the fate of a country and push it to the edges of an abyss.

Today, I believe, it is the right time to publicly apologize to all those I disbelieved and mocked, to all those with whom I argued about issues they knew and that I had no clue about. I apologize to all the elder veterans of the struggle who tried their best to warn my generation about the man destroying Eritrea today. For many of us it was too late when we found out the truth about the cruel man who has turned Eritrea in the sorry state it finds itself in.

During the first few years after its launch on September 1, 2000, the attacks on awate.com, and on me personally, were so relentless that close friends suggested I consider rebranding the website, abolish the name of Awate from its pages, and forget the flag he carried. It was painful, but I resisted and kept the Awate banner alive. In 2012, when the name of Awate was publicly besmirched from within the opposition, I was furious because I was sure what the end goal of that exercise was: annul the ideals of Awate (by besmirching his name) and the foundation on which modern Eritrea stands will be fractured to be left standing there in a helpless state.

The above-mentioned canning exercise was aimed at denying Eritreans their history, their sacrifices and to undermine their aspiration for freedom and dignity. Most people in the opposition understood the target was not Awate the man alone, but the whole Eritrean entity. That was the time when it became fashionable to deface the history of Hamid Idris Awate, and vengefully denigrate our history and our sacrifices. Paltalk rooms, Internet pages, speeches, and many aggressive anti-awate and anti-Eritrea campaigns were launched in a concerted manner. Luckily, many activists realized that what was at stake was not the name of Hamid Idris Awate alone, but the entire Eritrean arduous journey, and the collective national narration that we have been recording since 1961.

It was natural that I reacted in an equally aggressive manner to defend the integrity of Hamid Idris Awate, creating many enemies in the process. But regardless, I renewed my pledge to continue defending the great Awate, the symbol of modern Eritreanism.

Usually, every September 1st, awate.com used to highlight the struggle and history of Hamid Idris Awate. But we were always at a disadvantage because we lacked a scholarly history of Awate, the “sharp, courageous, decisive and strong” man. We depended on folktales, memories, and stories passed from veterans of the struggle. Sadly, as rich and as colorful as the narrations were, they could not stand a serious scholarly scrutiny—we were suffering from crippling deficiencies of authenticated narration. Luckily, there came a man whom I never heard before, but immediately felt he was Godsent. I am talking about my brother in Eritreanism, Hailesellassie, whose decades of hard work came in a book that he recently launched in Asmara.

The news was very emotional to me. Awate, the name, the image, and logo that many of the PFDJ satellites (and others) faulted us for using as a brand on our website, is now on a cover of a book printed in Asmara!. That was the same picture awate.com carries, and the same flag we associated with Awate simply because it’s impossible to associate Awate with any other flag. The book cover and the awate logo are the same—and that is what I consider vindication.

The flag from Tora-Bora!

Over the years, PFDJ functionaries described the blue Eritrean flag as “the one hoisted in Tora Bora” when Tora Bora was a household name during the war against AlQaeda, Bin-Laden, and Taliban in Afghanistan. The implication is very clear, it was a reckless campaign to paint Hamid Idris Awate, and by extension, Awate.com, as a sectarian entity. We know those who were behind that campaign, though now they have assumed the role of an ostrich and have their heads buried in the sand. It all came to pass.

Haileselassie Woldu, the vindicator

Yesterday morning I watched the author being interviewed by *Alemseghed Tesfai, another giant scholar I greatly admire. Alemseghed’s works are unparalleled, every page in the books he wrote oozes with an aroma of a genuine fragrance of Eritreanism. I have read and enjoyed all of Alemseghed’s books, and I have a special place in my heart for him. However, since today, since I am talking about Hailesselassie, I am feeling that I have a telepathic connection with him because I am feeling he wrote his book just to vindicate me. In fact, I might have become very-self-centered, I didn’t care about the rest, I simply felt the book was written to vindicate Saleh Johar after two-decades of vilification for believing and advancing the ideals that Hamid Idris Awate stood for.

Haileselassie Woldu just launched his 504 page Tigrinya book, “Hamid Idris Awate -1915-1962”—and it’s on sale on Amazon, priced at $25.You can order it by following this link. I strongly recommend it to everyone who reads Tigrinya—I have just placed my order. I even recommend it to the doubters for they could learn something—it may help them avoid foolishly parroting reckless partisan propaganda.

To Haileselassie Woldu, my spiritual brother, my Eritrean brother, I would like to say Thank You. Indeed, I waited for him for many years without knowing he existed. However, I knew there had to be someone out there doing this job. It was a visceral feeling. I knew he existed. Hopefully, he will accept my heartfelt admiration for the great job he accomplished, for the task that required a toil of a lifetime, and for “putting the dots on the alphabets” as the Arabic saying goes. Moreover, I thank him for coming to my rescue, for vindicating me and my colleagues. I still believe that nothing defeats truth and Haileselassie came with the truth to defeat all the reckless, destructive lies and propaganda that crippled our society for too long and severely tarnished our struggle and muddied our politics. I wish him a long and prosperous life, a life of giving more because certainly, he has it in him.

Recognizing those who waged the tough struggle

On this occasion, I would like to recognize all those who relentlessly and resolutely struggled to rehabilitate and safeguard the damaged name of Hamid Idris Awate. They include activists, poets, singers, painters, and writers. Also, on this occasion, I would like to recognize the talented painter Suleiman Bekhit who gave Eritreans the beautiful painting, a reproduction of the iconic picture of Hamid Idris Awate on a horseback.

Finally, I would like to remind all my colleagues, friends, and others reading this, that the main goal for which I launched awate.com was the difficult task of reconciliation. I still strongly believe in the noble cause. However, my vision of reconciliation is not one of capitulation, it is not a reconciliation where citizens bow their heads down in humility, but one where they meet with heads up to restore their dignity and cement their genuine Eritrean unity. I ask my compatriots to help bolster our determination to serve our people, and our commitment to realize a good life for our people. I say that with full confidence that Eritrea owns all the goodwill of its citizens. We should all strive to realize the Eritrea of our dreams, the Eritrea of a proud, dignified citizen–a stable Eritrea at peace with itself and its neighbors. And of course, it is the Eritrea where many of us have burned their lives for, and the Eritrea where we witnessed the lives of our compatriots, our peers, and sadly even our children, being paid for it as a dowry. It was an expensive undertaking and the outcome must match the sacrifices, nothing less.

An appeal from the heart

Dear Eritreans, in the name of those who paid the ultimate price, I urge you all to face the new challenges that our country is facing, in unison. We deserve a better country and our people deserve a better life. A life of dignity, free of fear. Let’s tighten our belts for the sake of the living and as a recognition of the sacrifices of those who are not with us anymore.

* The interviewer, I discovered, is not Alemseghed Tesfai but the poet Efrem Habtestion (akaWedi Ghede). It is nice to be introduced to the poet Efrem, but my words about Alemseghed stay the same. I apologize for the error.

The book is available on Amazon, follow the links:TIGRINYA VERSION  and  TIGRE VERSION

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear Sir SGL,

    Yes ended, everyone of us know that your main aim is to let us participate and reconciliation..You have already done it and let me assure in advance..

    “Finally, I would like to remind all my colleagues, friends, and others reading this, that the main goal for which I launched awate.com was the difficult task of reconciliation”

    Now, for the above post it was very nice read…. and it is yes the YouTube about awate.the broker armed struggle Sep 1 1961 nice,,, really the man was with knowledge 8 languages that was really very a advanced and man of principle..

    Thank you SGL “The book is available on Amazon, follow the links:TIGRINYA VERSION and TIGRE VERSION” I will sure buy this book..

    KS,,

  • Acria

    Selam SGJ and Awatistas,
    Congratulations on the vindication. This shows us to always stand for the truth as truth is timeless! I accept your appeal to work hard and build our beloved Eritrea to be a democratic nation with happiness and prosperity for all Eritreans.

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Hi Awates,

    35 years of data mining was really a great breath taking hard job. Teghedaly H. Weldu has not only documented the History of Hamid Idris Awate, but he also FILLED A NATION’S GAP.

  • Amanuel

    Hi SGJ
    Thanks for this inspirational article accompanied by good news of Hamid Idris Awate book.

    • Saleh Johar

      Thanks Amanuel,
      I am glad you find it relevant.

  • ghezaehagos

    Selam Saleh and Awatistas,

    Happy BD for Awate.com.

    Few days ago, I was engaged in unfocused manner with a FB post claiming Hamid Idris Awate was a Sudanese and Kebire was Tirgrean. I know the guy, Kebesa Mihreteab, a young short Eritrean comedy writer. He was in Israel and mostly known by Eritreans there. Of course, Kebesa read very little about Awate; I don’t think he read much about anything. I worry though.

    The anti-intellectualism in the younger generation is worth worrying about. The ‘young and disillusioned’ among us readily took in all anti-Eritrean nationhood stories. The damage is palpable. The PFDJ abused Eritrean psyche became fertile ground for rejectionist and revisionist history….Yeats, ‘ when center can’t hold’…or ‘Ab Israel nigus anynbern; kulu qnue zezmeslo yigebr nebere..’ Let us pray for a ‘king’. A reference. A ‘debter.’

    I am glad of Haileselassie Woldu j “Hamid Idris Awate -1915-1962” came out. If there are readers out there…

    Thanks,
    Ghezae

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi Ghezae,
      Thank you. I understand your frustration but I would settle for a little traditional wisdom of not displaying your ignorance publicly. I wish the ignorant realize that.

    • Acria

      Selam Ghezae,
      I think it is time to abandon FB (alias Fake Book) as it is becoming a waste of time and a medium of fake news. Time to engage in real news based on evidence-based research. That is going to be a challenge for the youth to be desensitized from the propaganda machine that they were instilled with. I do understand your concern. Time to direct them to real news and real Eritrea.

    • Blink

      Dear Ghezae Hagos

      I know you know Ghirmay the one who put an article about awate in asmarino do com long time ago ,when he was bashing Hamid Idris awate very few people objected him and many clapped . The fact that you are accusing the youth who are students of Girmay is simply amusing to see. How you try to play such game while you and everyone in this forum know Eritreans history was being cut by people like Girmay , smerr paltalk and others , it was just yesterday people were not born now . Come on , speak Facts so that you will not need a memory to look. at after time. Who told the guy you debated such thing ? Does he just want to spew his ignorance?

  • Berhe Y

    Dear SGJ and AT,

    Congratulations. I will borrow the Greek phrase and say Xronia Polla, for many years to come.

    I hope awate.com will focus in next phase of challenge which is institutions building. Our dictatorship will come to an end sooner or later, but dictatorship like ours, dominated and controlled by single individual come to a violent end. When they do, because he tactfully and purposely destroyed them, the transition takes a violent phase.

    And awate.com can play a pivotal role at it has done in the past to shift gears towards steering the direction the country is headed and prepare for safe landing.

    Again, Xronia Polla.

    Berhe

  • Ismail AA

    Hayak Allah Saleh Johar,

    It should come as no surprise to Eritreans – friends and adversaries alike – that the viability and potency of your bold and seemingly hazardous initiative was to be an outcome between stride of two contradictory theses:

    Isayas and his role as antithesis of Awate’s unifying Eritreanism. It has been a contention
    between the former’s divisive and polarizing manifesto, and Awate’s firm precaution to members of his first unit that unified national endeavor of the lowland and highland populations was an imperative to the victory of the struggle he had launched.

    Despite episodic (favorite term of Beyan Negash) setbacks Isayas and his reckless self-aggrandizement has been causing, the fate of stride between forces of unity and forces of
    division is going to determine the future of Eritrea as a state. Awate.com as an alternative voice and free platform for reconciliation through free debate has come a long way to reinforce the forces of unity. Thank you for making that happen.

  • Saleh Johar

    Selamat all,
    I am out after a frustrating week. And I apologize for this “I” filled post, thecsteam had to be released—some disturbing steam that was sitting in my chest. I feel good and I hope many will.

    • Selam Memhir,
      It is an excellent news that the long overdue manuscript by Haileselassie Woldu has finally seen the light of the day. I had the chance to read part of it when I was working at the Research and documentation Center of the PFDJ and it really humanizes, historicizes and contextualise Hamid Idriss Awate’s life. I can’t wait to read in its entirety.

      I hope the publication of the book encourages others who are either in the process of writing or planning to write the biographies of Eritrea’s heroes and heroines. (i know one of the finest writers with the Ministry of Information has been working on a biography of Abdelkadir Kebire. The last time I met him, he was conducting extensive interviews and had amassed a wealth of information about Kebire. He had unearthed Kebire’s breathtaking personal, entrepreneurial and political life. Hopefully, he will find strength and liberty to finish the work)

      And kudos to you, Saleh Gadi Johar, for playing your part in keeping the vision and memory of Eritrea’s crème de la crème.

      p.s. The video interview of the author you have attached with the article is not conducted by Alemseghed Tesfai. He is Efrem Habtestion (Wedi Ghede)- a fine published poet in his own right.

      best,
      Samuel

      • Saleh Johar

        Selam Samuel,
        Thank you for the warm post–I am aware of theKebire book project but I am not sure if there are more than one person doing it. It’s a juicy project that anyone wishes to accomplish.

        And thank you for the correction, sometimes it is good to double check because I didn’t pay attention but depended on a casual remark by a friend. I have appended a note at the bottom–a correction of the error and an apology. Thank you again

        • Idris ali

          Salamat Ustaz Saleh
          I congrats you at you and Awate were finally vindicated (la Yahoko illa alhak)
          Awate was always the target of those who get up to the trian of the Eritrean struggel late and forced by the waves of revolution, and Thier hearts was with mamma Ethiopia. As i knew from a friend who deppartured hegdf recently the book was ready for inauguration since 2007 , but some powerful hands in the hegdf stopped the publication of the book.
          Recenetly Dr.Karar the son of Martyer Awate has written two letters. One to his father and his comrades by the occation of the graduation of his daugther (the grand daugther of Awate Aisha Krar from Damascus University in IT .And the second letter for the auther of book Awate thanking him for
          his sternous and prolonged effort of search for the truth about Awate giving him the brivilage of good intention before reading the book. I recommand these two letters to publicated in Awate .
          Dr.Idris Shokai

    • Peace!

      Hala Salihom,

      You are a hero for this generation and a teacher for generations to come. You should be the one narrating the: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything,” JustDoIt!, ad.

      As far as foundation of the struggle for representing the true foundation of Eritrea, for democracy, and for rule of law concerned, you believed in all of them, you sacrificed everything, You did it, and you won. Thank you for your hard work and sacrifices, sir. Please accept my sincere apology for any disappointment I may have caused.

      Peace!

      • Saleh Johar

        Dear Peace,
        No need for apologies, it is all for the best of the struggle–we are all pressured and losing it every once in a while should be understood. Indeed, JustDoIt!

        But abziHkaley ymesleni!

        Thank you for the nice, flattering words.

    • RufaelW

      Dear Saleh, your endurance helped get to where Awate.com is at now. Would like to thank you and congratulate you for that. Yes, your relentless struggle to empower, educate and embolden has achieved its goals, well, almost.

      Thank you for your sincere “appeal from the heart”. I think with the help of the geo-political events, we are at a whole new stage; this new stage we are at, requires us, as you said, to “tighten our belts” in order to get to what seems a final push. This final push need to come before DIA does his final push of ” Eritra ms Etiopia Hanti Etiopia”!.Once he gets there, the fight would be much harder to reverse. I am encouraged at the spirit of the opposition from the Eri-Demo in Geneva.

      • Saleh Johar

        Hello Goodman Rufael,
        I wish someday I will honor all the people who stood by our side over the years. Your support and encouragement never left us since day one, and I am not going to say the abhorring, “gubouka gerka” 🙂 I prefer to say THANK YOU, a big one, for your honorable character and for being a true friend.

        Thanks for he nice words

        • RufaelW

          You are very welcome dear.