Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

Gejeret 1975: Life Under Mengistu’s Derg

If you are from Gejeret, then you might remember where the residents of that neighborhood in Asmara found refuge in 1975. I was one of those who took refuge at San Francesco or Collegio La Salle, which was administered by the Kerenite Fratelli, Fr. Michael, Fr. Kahsay, Fratello Beyene, and Fr. Demsas. Later, I heard Fr. Beyene joined the struggle but I’ve no information if he made it to Independence Day. Also, rumor had it that afterwards, Fr. Misghina quit the La Salle seminary, got married and left for Sweden. And there is more of such news.

The year 1975 ushered a turbulent and terrible time for Asmara residents who hitherto escaped the ugliness of the raging terror that was being carried out by the Derg. Most people from Gejeret stayed at home during daytime, and when the sun was about to set, they moved to La Salle to spend the night. Usually in the late afternoon, most of the people packed necessary supplies, took along mattress and blankets, and bagged other items, and headed to La Salle to spend the night. After some time, that became the daily routine, people were convinced it was the only way to avoid falling victim and facing the unimaginable cruelty and looting in the hands of the Derg security forces, the Tor Serawti who became extremely active during the night.

Two places became safe havens for the residents of Gejeret: San Francesco and La Salle; they offered relative security and peace. Meanwhile, many residents trekked to the countryside around Asmara where they found refuge and the rural areas were crowded with relatives and refugees from the capital city. My family couldn’t follow the footsteps of the other people since our ancestral village was entirely burnt down and razed to the ground. The destroyed village became uninhabitable for its residents let alone refugees from Asmara.

Sometime later, for reasons I cannot exactly explain, all the people who took refuge at La Salle and San Francesco gradually stopped frequenting those place; they started to stay at home overnight. However, the risk that the Tor Serawit posed on their safety, was not over yet.  Maybe that could be due to accepting fate—z’metse ymtsa’e attitude. It could also be that somehow, we were aware of Abraham Afewerki’s song long before it was released:  “tsebaH ms Halefe Kullu”, meaning, “tomorrow, when everything is over”. We pretended to listen to the imaginary song because fate had to somehow be confronted and challenged.

As the situation deteriorated in Asmara, the schools were closed; a few classmates made it to Addis Ababa. Luckily, the Frattelli from Collegio La Salle not only hosted the people, but they also offered opportunities for those who could continue to pursue further education by providing schooling with a ‘modified curriculum’. That was a very creative and wise move which helped the children not only to have some positive distractions from what was happening during the terrifying times, but were able to normalize our daily life when everywhere else murder and mayhem was prevalent. The Fratelli and their institutions deserve so much credit for their kindness and for what they provided the people in their time of need, and for saving so many lives. Personally, I am indebted to them, and I can’t thank them enough for the great service they provided

During that time, Asmara rarely had lights at night and the people also preferred dim candle lights to avoid detection by the Afagn Guad, (the strangulation teams) of the Tor Serawit in the evenings—dark houses gave them the impression the homes were uninhabited. As soon as darkness sets in, residents were supposed to speak sotto-voce, and all talks were whispers. One learned how to sharpen their hearing faculties and could discern the sound of the cars that roamed the deserted streets from other sounds. Outside, the air was so silent; inside the houses, even footsteps were not supposed to make a noise. We had learned how to tip toe.

My mother was very careful; she would walk  to the kitchen quietly calculating the position of every step she took, until she made sure the danger was over. Usually she would peek through the crack in the door and check the streets for extra assurance of safety. It was then that she passed her verdict. She would order us to either relax after so many tense hours, or continue to be silent and freeze where we were, depending on what she detected through the crack in the door.

Our house was located on a high ground, and on the side was an empty and steep slope. That place became a convenient escape route for the Eritrean combatants, the fedayeen, who frequently sneaked into Asmara for military operations. Thus, every time we heard of a Fedayeen mission, or assumed that one was underway after hearing gunshots, we were obliged to exercise caution.  At night, the nearer the sound of gunshots, the more probable the terrorizing search squads, (fetash budn) would inevitably start to comb the neighborhood starting early morning, and carry out house to house searches.  It was during such alerting moments that my mother would rush to hide any item that was expected to cause trouble. Therefore, even the music cassettes of Tsehaitu BeraKi’s songs would be thrown in the gutters or discarded far away, and my mother, not understanding their value, would burn the pamphlets that were secretly distributed by the combatants and their collaborators in the city.

On the search mornings, people despised the loud knocks and the security forces who violently banged on the doors, all the time screaming, “kfetew“, open it! That terrorizing sound still rings in my ears and vividly resides in my memory to this day.

By the morning, if there was no shooting during the night, my mother would sneak a peek to check the streets. She would check to the left and to the right to ensure the streets are empty. Adey Mihret, a frequent churchgoer would be the first my mother sees on the street. She would be returning from church after praying for the safety of her children. She was a very courageous, decent, and patriotic mother. Understandably, her children (and later her grandchildren) joined the armed struggle–no exception, all of them. She was hailed by many as a symbol of the struggle and the pride of all women.

During the struggle era, the house of this indomitable mother had become an established base for the clandestine activities of the combatants; it was also where the radio communication apparatuses were stored. My mother would exchange greetings and niceties with her and ask “dehaido rekhibkn; dehai nai deqkhn?”, asking if she received any news from her children.

Sadly, the gentle and courageous Adey Mihret passed away before the independence of Eritrea, and one of her sons didn’t make it either. Her youngest son, an EPLF combatant, who suffered from and mourned his mother’s loss for a long time, is now in jail, is now in jail, detained without charges. The PFDJ government doesn’t offer any rights for prisoners and it doesn’t recognize the writ of habeas corpus.

My neighborhood is now somehow deserted, emptied of its inhabitants. My mother and Adey Mihret have passed away, their children are not there anymore. And now, the Afagn Guad is replaced by  the PFDJ’s dHnet. Both squads snuffed out our life and exposed us to an unnatural, abnormal fate, for years. Ironically, proud of what they have turned Eritrea into, they advertise their slogan: Come and see! Can I go to Eritrea and be able to see the jailed son of Adey Mihret, my neighbor, my idol of perseverance and the very symbol of the epic struggle of Eritrea?  Can I go and take a lawyer to defend his right to due legal process?

A while ago I asked a well-informed friend who lives in Eritrea why my neighbor was in jail.  He candidly replied: “ah.., kindey indiyu geyru kab z’esser…resiEnayo keman” (Oh… it has been a while since he was jailed, we even forgot about him).

I wonder: what would my mother and Adey Mihret say if they, somehow, once again returned and met one quite morning at our yard gate?

NB:
1. Adey Mihret is not the real name
2. Some Tigrinya expressions are used to reflect the cultural nuances

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  • Menghis

    Yes we spent some time in San Francisco. I remember that hallway. Thanks for the memory.

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Salam Hagos Kahsay,

    In our contemporary world slavery has taken a new form. It is not practiced as in its old form. Many peoples of the world are slaves of haves. Most peoples are compelled to execute whims of their masters or face hell, an indirect slavery. The poor are slaves of the powerful, they are given a chance of work and leading life to a certain extent but should not cross that line drawn by their masters, it is a kind of sublease slavery. The more the world develops technologically, the more the poor become more wretched.

    Mr. Hogos, don’t think about the slavery of our women in Libya, but think about the reason that has brought them to that spot, think about cause not results. I seize this opportunity to inform you that those who enslaved women in Libya eradicated by their brothers, this is, of course, if our women dilemma worries you. But if your problem is with Arabs declare war against them and wipe them from the surface of earth, so as to repose yourself and live happy. I would like to remind you, after you annihilate them all, instruct God not to create them again.

    Al-Arabi

    • Hagos Kahsay

      Hi Hammeed,

      I think you should see the report before you make too many assumptions about my intentions.

      https://www.facebook.com/Reuters/videos/1322482231105463/

      • Hameed Al-Arabi

        Salam Hagos Kahsay,

        I have seen the report before you paste it in the forum. Your intentions are clear from your comments. I inform you those who abused the women eradicated by Libyans, this is fact not assumption.

        I think you forget what you write after a short time, memory problem.

        Al-Arabi

        • Hagos Kahsay

          Hameed,

          What did I forget? Please remind me. You seem to be inside my head.

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Hagos Kahsay,

            How long does this happen to you?

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Hameed 😊

            I really don’t mind if someone does not share my views or values. What I cannot accept is when people are rude and disrespectful (and for no reason at that). Therefore I have decided to not engage with you.

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Hagos Kahsay,

            Did you make a thorough research for you decision or it was impromptu like that of gangsters?

      • Sarah Ogbay

        Hi Hagos,
        This is really sad. My heart bleeds when I hear them, especially the mother who misses her children. May God give them power to get through the pain of this nightmare.

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Salam Berhe Y,

    I believe all peoples are equal. Could you tell me what have made you superman? I hope not to come back and tell me you are a democratic and justice seeker. You have to conceive very well, at present even kids can’t be cheated. Please, don’t claim what you are not. You are just a village mindset, a man from Medieval Age.

    Al-Arabi

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi Hameed,

      You can chose to ignore my second advise to you in as much days. I know Berhe for the last 16 years. I can vouch for him and testify under oath he is nothing like you are describing him. Please tone down. His record and character is impeccable. Please don’t be too aggressive if you believe you have a cause you want to advance.

    • Berhe Y

      Selam Al-Arabi,

      I have no idea what you are talking about. What ever problems that you have, I don’t believe it’s related to what I said or wrote, specifically to you.

      If you are man enough, state clearly what you want to say to me, substantiate what you are accusing me of…otherwise mudslinging insults and accusation without any proof is not going to stick…

      Peace Out.

      Berhe

      • Hameed Al-Arabi

        Salam Berhe Y,

        Who said: ” If you want your equals, I think you need to find them somewhere else.”

        I believe no one should fall behind, and a community free of barriers and arrogance. A bad teacher encourages haughtiness. Forget about insolence to be a good citizen. Endeavour to come down and work for the good of all. Required 99% well-polished citizens, not citizens that require 25 years to understand what is going in their country.

        Al-Arabi

  • Berhe Y

    Dear Tzigereda,

    I want to comment in your article but I remember writing of the “Tog Tog” event and what happened in our neighborhood and I thought I would search it again I post it here again with some correction. Thank you for tak

    We lived in Geza Sinkey and I think it was heavily targeted during that time. I don’t know if more than the other neighborhood but for sure. I don’t know the reason but my guess is that, because it’s in the out skirt of Asmara and wide open access, there were many Tor Sorawit stationed across “Hadish Tsirgia” in the mountains that have direct view / access from the farm fields.

    In any event I want to re-post again the even that happened to our own home and that of our neighbor and a friend.

    “I was in kinder garden, I had a good friend and his father use to drive us to school. When the DERG come to power the whole city was under terror and those Ethiopian Torsorawit were going house to house to steal, gold and money and in the process were looking for wenbede and kill and slaughtered people who stood in their way. Our house was their next target, while my mother and grand mother were praying, and my sisters were crying, the rod us to open (kifet), which we didn’t. Our house had large metal door and high compound and they couldn’t break open the door. They tried to climb but our dog kept on barking and jumped high to get their fingers, they shot him but couldn’t target him and finally left. Soon after they went to my fried house, unlucky for them they jumped in. Stole what ever they can and found the father hiding under the bed and the dragged him and stubbed him and left him to die. His wife a mother of few month child, come screaming to our house for help and my mother was the first to open and went for help after she knocked down few doors,.

    Poor guy died in her hands, of my mother, he asked for water, his last words. I never forget him, he was probably in his 30s, and he had Fiat 124. The story goes, the night before he was out and when he heard guy shots while he was in the city, he went to a house for a cover. As it got late and the shots didn’t stop he ended up staying over at the house (few blocks) from his own house. His wife was worried the whole night and she got mad. The next day when similar situation happened, he decided to go walk to his house. The compound of the house wasn’t high enough and he jumped over and went inside his house. The Tor Sorawit they saw him with their binoculars and they come straight. I don’t know if this was true or not but I know for sure they were in our house first before they made it his house.

    The mother soon left the children with their grand mother and went to Sudan / Saudi Arabia to look after her family. Now I heard the kids are all grown and they live some where in the Europe.

    Soon after we collected what we can and left to our village. While I was playing in the fields, I remember war planes coming with wild noise, you probably seen those in air show and I remember kids running for cover, leaving everything behind and I had no idea and left behind collecting them. Later I was told to run and hide behind trees if I see the war planes (we called them lekokito).

    Thank you for writing this story.

    Berhe

  • ‘Gheteb

    Tall Talk In Profusion: The Recently And Not So Recently Departed On A Blaming Spree

    Greetings!!

    A journalist recently opined that one of the most prominent foibles or weak points of the Ethiopian opposition groups — those forces who find themselves at loggerheads with and have locked horns with the execrably loathsome Weyane tribal junta — is that they have “conflated opposition to [being] opposite” so much so that their activities are becoming less effective.

    Well, after reading that I said this journalist is obliviously incognizant of a neighboring planet otherwise known as “Planet Illogic” where conflation of opposition to being not only opposite but diametrically and polarly opposite is so prevalent that it has become an article of faith of it’s very denizens. Not only a commonly accepted fact is denied if it was pronounced from their nemesis — the PFDJ — , but historical events, atrocities that predate the PFDJ, are distorted and perverted by some bizarre mental alchemy so that the PFDJ will end up as the blamed and guilty party.

    This bizarre mental alchemy has literally turned logic on its head and if I were to tell you that illogicality reigns supreme in “Planet Illogic” and logic walks NOT on its feet, but on its head, I know some of you may be gasping for air or shaking your head in utter disbelief. Well, then take a deep breath and open your eyes and peruse the “masterpiece” that was “expertly written” by the author of this article.

    The title of the article tells us the narration is going to be about “Gejeret 1975: Life Under Mengistu’s Derg”. One would expect that the story is going to be about what life looked like in the year 1975. Here one also hoped to see at a least a modicum effort of arranging the PLOT of the “masterpiece” in chronological order from January to December of the year 1975. But I was left scratching my head and wondering, yeah it was 1975, but which month or months of 1975 are you talking about? Not only that, for the uninitiated reader, s/he is left wondering to find the SETTING of the story because neither the PLACE where the story transpired is depicted or limned adequately nor the TIME of the events is specified accurately.

    Not surprisingly and true to form, as I predicted before even reading the first sentence of the article, the author did precisely what I have anticipated: distort and pervert the topic sentence and jump from the main thrust of the story and blame the PFDJ. The story was to be about 1975 Derg, but it ended up blaming the PFDJ by jumping four decades (41 years). What an “expertly written” “masterpiece”! It even equated Derg’s ” Afagn Guad” to the PFDJ’s “dHnet”. I guess in Planet Illogic’s parlance “Afagn Guad” means “Hagreawi Dhnet” and maybe white has morphed to mean black and black is illogically understood to mean white. Heavens, in 1975 even the EPLF didn’t exist let alone the PFDJ.

    The author’s preternatural propensity to blame anything and everything on the PFDJ is quite evident and one can readily subsumes it to the praxis of the denizens of “Planet Illogic”. Well, truth be told and some of us have the audacity and the political gumption in this forum to call a spade by its very name which is nothing but a SPADE. This piece written by this author is neither masterpiece nor is it expertly written. The only LOGICAL place it belongs to is in the “PERSONAL DIARY” category and no where else.

    • Solomon

      Selamat Ghteb,

      ብዘይ በኣኹምሲ ጨው ነይብሉ።

      Not so fast ወደ’ሞይ። Gejeret 1975 A Pivital Year for Eritrea’s Consciousness –Domino! As Pivotal as ባሕቲ መስከረም ዓዋተ ኣብ ጎቦ ዓዳል 1961፡ ህጁም 1977፥ ደጀን 1979፥ ብድሆ 1981፡ ፈንቅል 1989፥ ዮሃና ናጽነት 1991፡ ዋርሳይ1997- 2000፡ ፍትሒ ሕጊ ነጻነትን ሓርነትን ነቶም ብ ዘይሕጋዊ ኡስረኛ ኤርትራዊ ካብ ወደ ኣደይ፡ምሕረትን ሙሓመድ ማርነት ጀሚርካ 2017።

      ዱቃ ሱዋ ደኣ ስተ ጽራይ አንተ ዘይጠዓምካ ወደ’ኮይ።

      ቅዳምይቲ ሰብት ናብ ሰምበት ሰናይ የሕድረና ረቢ።

      ጻጸ

    • Simon Kaleab

      Selam Gheteb,

      What does that tell you about those who heaped the obligatory praises on the article?

      “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

    • Hameed Al-Arabi

      Salam Gheteb,

      Isaias and his cohorts are there from 1975 to 2016, thus changing their skin from PLF to EPLF and lastly to PFDJ doesn’t mean they disappeared from the scene. I think your logic is that turned upside down, try to check yourself.

      The story plot connects AIM of our struggle with its RESULTS.

      Al-Arabi

  • Tzigereda

    Dear Awatistas,
    Thank you so much for all the encouraging and kind words. Weeks ago a comment from Haile S. triggerded my memories of those days. Memories that without doubt everyone of you – irrespective of where you lived- has inherited. A humble tribute to those who offered us refuge, to all the mothers and gorebabti , to all who sacrificed their life and in extension to all who are still paying too much. Particular Emphasis was meant to be put on the paradox of our short lived hope and expectation after independence. In the words of some Awatistas ” the plight of Eritreans” is still present; there’s no explanation for why Eritreans should “languish in jail without a day in court”.

    • saay7

      Hey Tzigereda:

      A mutual friend has a remarkable story to add to yours, specifically where the VW is parked in the image that accompanies your article. But because he is fara wedi geza Kenisha, he doesn’t know how to perform a simple task an register in disqus so I may have to help him out and post for him. 😂

      Saay

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Dear Saay,

        “Fara wedi gaza kanisha “! O’ man, where did you want to plunge us? Wasn’t it simple only to allude him as friend of yours?

        regards

        • Solomon

          Oh Captain,

          I recall narations of the old Skunnis, Awalu Deki ShuQ who did great damage to…

          I think the urban/hood word “square” is equivallent to Asmarino’s Faras.

          Is a Wedi SuQ not a fara?
          ጻጸ

        • saay7

          Haha Emma:

          There is a method to my madness. You see he is not wedi geza Kenisha; he is from Little Gejeret. And u know in Asmara the Gejeret and Emba Galiano are snobs deqi mama and I am trying to shame him. Plus Asmarinos making fun of each other’s neighborhoods is the safest taunt before someone accuses u of being tiHte hagerawi. (Of course if u are from villages like Keren we won’t allow you to do that.) Now if I really want to get ONE guy going I would mention Edaga Arbi; but that wouldn’t be fair because he doesn’t have internet access. 😂

          saay

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Ahlen Aya Adi ‘u,

            Aha! “Photographic memory “. I hope he is an awate reader where his friend is one of the pillars and founders of this website. In fact when he reads your comment reflecting his memory on which he is part and parcel of that memory, he will react with subtle smile to show his approval. Above all he will be reminded that you are also the miror image of his photographic memory.

            Regards

          • saay7

            Selamat Emma:

            Thanks for the compliment but you will have to revise your chemical formula. This guy I am talking about is amazing: show him a picture of a building in Asmara and he will tell you the architect, how much it cost, and a gazillion peripheral issues. And his knowledge is massive. Remember how I wrote once that Osman abdulrehims “aqli xibet” has the best guitar riff in Tigrinya music? He wrote me to say (a) you mean the remastered European version (he was right) and he (b) told me the guitarist was the one in TEKLE Tesfezghis Rohas band; (c) that his name is Selam seyoum Woldemariam and (d) that he is the nephew of wokdeab Woldemariam. Then we spent the whole night comparing our guitar heroes and Insulting each other’s Asmara neighborhoods :).

            So no sir. No comparison: the man is a stunning dictionary. And what I love about him: he is no langa langa but one principled man hates the PFDJ with a burning passion, wedaitom timxae 😂

            Saay

          • blink

            Dear Saay
            I always have a great respect for you man , where is your article about the Atlantic council bla bla of million ifs ,plus your friend was hitting on the reset issue.

          • saay7

            Hey Blink:

            It’s in the oven. Will be published Sunday or Monday.

            I am bypassing my bff Bruton (mostly) and engaging the latest Kool Aid drinker, who gave a decent assessment of Eritreas economy and then (access is such an aphrodisiac) failed to take it to its logical end.

            I am also withdrawing my criticism that an event about Eritrea should have had Eritreans. After hearing the questions, I am convinced we are not ready for prime time. I was going to blame PFDJ but now I am convinced our culture is broken. All that “ihin mihin” culture we brag about is replaced by idiocracy.

            Stay tuned 🙂

            Saay

          • blink

            Dear saay
            Thanks sir.

  • Beyan

    Dear Tsigereda,

    1975: The Art of Intuition, the Art of Survival: The Year Asmarinos Learned to “Fly”

    The uniqueness of human attribute, among many others, is memory. In “Remembrance of things past,” Proust captures in how our senses can serve as triggers of memory. Of course, our ability to project forward and gaze past-ward while thinking of the present is a phenomenal trait all onto itself. For example, the aroma of food can take one through memory lane precisely to the place and time when that particular food was first savored. Just yesterday I opened a glass jar that had cumin spice to add to my beans for breakfast. We started to chat about how that very inviting aroma of this particular cumin transported me to when I first familiarized myself with everything food. Seemingly an everyday mundane things that one does such as opening a glass of jar with spice in it makes the memory so vivid that it triggered the time when I caught a bus in the evening while headed to my place of retirement for the night from Khartum’s sifra Unudat to Umdurman, and from Umdurman yet another Abrojela bus to Abroof. As soon as I would alight from the bus at the end of the bus-line, I smell that distinct cumin laced beans being made for dinner right there at that bus-stop where people would be enjoying their meals of dinner outdoors before they went to their respective homes for the night.

    Of course, text can have the same effect. What you lucidly have written transported me to that year and to that day when mejemeria Egrgr started. The whole year everyone in our neighborhood, at least, in Akhriya, nobody went to school. I have a vague memory that all schools were shutdown. I was too young and too naïve to have had a language for it. I know for sure there was a curfew in place because that’s when everyone would rush to get home before the ticking of the clock could turn into a ticking blast that the Derg’s military junta could shoot any moving body one minute past the curfew hour. I don’t know if there was State of Emergency declared by the Derg then. We Akhriya kids didn’t go to school that year. An otherwise vibrant city, Asmara was turned into a ghost town. During the day, from laEli Akhriya when we could spot that White VW Van (WVWV) from a distance – as far as the eye can see – that curb toward Edaga Hamus, past Igdet, we would spot that WVWV slowly getting more pronounced – sneaking upon us closer and closer – as we played soccer outside. Anybody who spots it first would make the noise: “nai AffaN mekina metsia!” We would slip into our respective houses so we don’t become its victims. Walls and doors were our only barracks from danger. I have never witnessed this, but the story goes, there would be someone from the neighborhood in that WVWV hiding inside who would point out what house for the AfaN to go in and snap young men. Or, anyone who is naïve enough to stand on the street in the way of that WVWV was going to be hauled in to never be seen again. That WVWV seemed to come at a snail pace, much like a snake catches its prey unawares or that it was going at such slow pace so that the person inside could point the houses of target – Who knows?

    Nonetheless, 1975 was the year Asmarinos developed proclivities for survival. The art of intuition and the art of fleeing used with precision could be the difference between living and dying; between being imprisoned behind bars and freedom to breathe fresh air at least until the next round. Those were the beginning of turbulent times for Eritreans all over Eritrea and beyond: Some who perished; some who were imprisoned; and some who decided to pick-up arms and fight fire with fire for the sakes of their families, their people, and their – by then – conceptualized nation-state called Eritrea. Many more Eritreans who had seen the pigeons fly with grace in their respective neighborhoods; I certainly have seen my share of those pigeons nesting and hatching high up on the roof of our home. Or across the street from our house, Ahmed weddi Ali bAl dukkan had plenty of pigeons that he took care of. We all have seen those birds fly with such ease and with such grace. This would’ve been the time one wished had wings to fly away from the danger the same way that pigeons had natural dispositions for.

    Those were the years in which Eritreans developed proclivities akin to flying – the art of fleeing away from the dangers of extinction where predators came in all guises. So long those feet were grounded to the earth, Eritreans found a way of outwitting the Derg’s scourges and purges. Subsequently, the oppressive spaces in any strange land Eritreans began to sense it at visceral level as though they knew how to survive in that space between and betwixt of the oppressor and the oppressed. What started as survival mechanism in a specific situation in 1975, everywhere Eritreans went as refugees and sensed the oppressive spaces, they managed to survive.

    Today, or for the last quarter of a century, however, the danger is coming from one’s own, and that’s when it can become a path to extinction, but I digressed. I best leave my comment for the year 1975 when Eritreans developed a new arsenal, a survival toolkit that does not have a manual – only intuition, instinct, both of which are felt at a visceral level not at the level of the rational and logical mind.

    Beyan

    • Solomon

      Selamat Mr. Beyan Negash,

      This is very profound indeed. Essentially you are saying 1975 is the pivotal year of Eritrean self consciosness.

      “Subsequently, the oppressive spaces in any strange land Eritreans began to sense it at visceral level as though they knew how to survive in that space between and betwixt of the oppressor and the oppressed.”

      Above there is a lot of food for thought.

      I will howevet now jump back to character and loosely state, I have had wrong for nearly forty years to have thought it was 1977. Those same Asmarinos and Eritreans, who decided to stay and “fight fire with fire”, were knocking back at Gejeret,Godayfs…Akhria’s door steps. You know the history, the songs and the singer. Asmara ubderseige with towns becaming the fire fighter’s base, Ereye plus AyresaEnayan SebAn ShewAten and FeHira respectively.

      As I have stated before, I did not have all my marbles in 1975. 1977 however, it was the year nearly every hut in Teseney burned to the ground. It will be forty years in 2017 since I last stepped foot ob Eritrea.
      I will add Two to calibrate with my fellow Asmarino Eritreans. Took flight 42 Years in 1975.
      On a viceral level indeed.

      tSAtSE

      • Beyan

        Dear Solomon,

        I am using 1975 as the marker because the author’s piece of a lament stays within that particular year. And that particular year was when what was known in Asmara then as the time of Egrgr in which the freedom fighters would conduct their military operations, such as eliminating Ethiopia’s military personnel or those who were thought to be collaborating with Ethiopia’s Derg in some fashion. Or simply, raiding a place to take arms or supplies of food, etc. So, give few years here and few years there depending on when one began to sense the unsettling environment, one could use a particular year as a marker. One general date-marker attendant to Asmara, however, I would have to say was 1975. I am certain, historians will give us the nots and bolts of those dates and what they signified. Here, we are just telling our respective stories to illustrate and make sense of the unexpected predicament we found ourselves in in which our world was tunred upside down. Interestingly, for those Eritreans who rode the wave of arbitrary violence all throughout the Derg’s reign and still are riding the homegrown reign today and continue to somehow survive, it is certain they would have a date-marker that might be far different than mine or yours.1977, for example, was profoundly impactful year in my personal life, but that will be a topic for another time and another story. I am just opting to stay within 1975 to learn from others what it all meant to them at a personal and general level, that’s all.

        Cheers,
        Beyan

        • Solomon

          MerHaba Beyan,

          And the Year 1975 is a good marker.

          In Hilet Sudan, Teseney the family owned flower mill my brother and I went in and out with their children at will. Neighborhood friends in the early Seventies. I recall on Eid we would travel as far as Fanko with the familly for MuAyedeen’s Halawa. As a nuisance younger brother tag along, I would hear the older boys speaking/educating one another of the difference between the words Ethiopia and Eritrea and that infact there is such a thing as one, two or more countries. I remember my brain/mind struggling to grasp the concept of country because I could not envission it as I would a shiny marble/balina. There were far more frequent TogTogs in Hilet Sudan, Teseney. Whispers of huddled homes of the Dankab fenced huts, where the shadowy fire fighters manouvered in and out from the high escarpments where Teseney’s Hispital was located was I remember vividly. Teseney’s own son Solomon ‘Fter was killed in action durring a Tog Tog in and around Hilet Sudan.

          In the years 1974, 1975, 1976 Teseney’s human population grew thousands fold if not 10,000 times. The Tor Serawit made Teseney’s air so tense that you can could cut it with the Tor’s Boyenet pointing from each soldier’s rifles. Strange birds called aerbnale were objects of fearfull focus by local adults….
          We went back and forth from Hilet Sudan Teseney to Gejeret on the Haji Hassan Bus Line until Egrgrr broke the rout for good. And in 1977 only ab Azilo student at the Enda Padre also in HiletSudan left Teseney Burning as it was liberated by the ELF.

          Coincidently, tSigereda is the name of Solomon ‘Fters sister who also joined the fire fight in 1978 with close to twenty of my classmates.
          tSigereda ‘Fter survived the war and I last heard she is a public servant in Zoba Barka.

          I delved into the personal naration to let you know, that come to think if it, I too was well aware of more than my tangable shiny marbles/balina and Halawa in 1975.

          There is more several open ended thesis you have presented us with your earlier insightful share I am personally making note of. My delving into charachter is keep myself from long winded tangents I tend to get on.

          Gejeret is the only neighborhood in asmara know, though I recall visiting my cousin (ጓል ሕትነይ) in Akhria and Godayif..

          ጻጸ

          • Beyan

            merHaba Solomon,

            I love the lucidity with which you articulate your ideas. Once you honed in to that zone whence your lived experience emanates from, there comes out a personal narrative galloping onward. I am no poet but, in “Sister Outsider”, Audrey Lorde incisevely notes that “Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” I find I can express my feelings better in prose as I cannot for the life of me write one coherent stanza in poetry.

            At any rate, memory is a subject matter I find fascinating. This kind of collective memory juggling exercise that we are endeavoring here helps sharpen and shape our personal narrative to gracefully mature. Of course, there are slippery slopes I feel worth entertaining here. At the core of personal narrative as method of inquiry, memory and its attendant issues as they relate to the writer would have to be addressed transparently and honestly. There are many angles that one can approach memory from; namely you’ve got, for example neuroscietists, cognitive psychologists, historians, and literary writers who can give us multifaceted and mosaic memory related narratives.

            For our purposes here, however, making attempts to confine memory to the latter two, namely, history and literary as these are the crux of the matter whence all memory recollections emanate from and we would be able to extract the lived experience through the power of memory. The first two should be left for the expers to educate us in the mechanics of it.

            Additionally, awareness of ‘“retrospective bias[es]” have revealed that one’s memories of past experiences can be influenced by one’s current beliefs. For example, … recollections of past political views can be distorted significantly by present political beliefs as many experts in the field stipulate. So, it is not difficult to surmise then that belief can affect memory or event flat-out leading one to distort it. After all, the least reliable witnesses in the court of law are the so called eye witnesses as we have come to learn there are myriad of factors that can throw doubts in such testimonies. We’ve seen time and again how African Americans had been and continue to be framed by state sanctioned authorities like police to put them through years of incarceration, where some lucky ones are saved by the DNA. Again, here is one poetess who captures that essence: “You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies,/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I’ll rise” (Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014).

            Such self-appraising in dispassionate manner as Tzigereda did and the “temporal distance” that allowed for such dispensation make the narrative palatably enjoyable. Similarly, the story that you just narrated with specificities that can only come from the lived experience, which in turn allows room to delve deeper and deeper into the surrounding contexts of things being remembered is duly felt and noted. The hirrendeous legacies of oppression in its various forms vis-à-vis the legacies of colonialism and post-colonialism highlight how its wrath is felt decades and decades since its inception.

            Cheers,
            Beyan

  • Hameed Al-Arabi

    Salam All,

    Many of us may think the division along linguistic line is a permanent name, but it is just a subtle transitional period. On one hand they have divided people on linguistic lines and on the other hand they impose Tigrinia language and culture. At the time all people speak Tigrinia and embrace Tigrinia culture, they will cancel all ethnic groups and name them Tigrinia ethnic group. I think in the future Jebertti problem will be the problem of all, WE ARE NOT TIGRINIA.

    Al-Arabi

  • Ze Haile

    Thank you a million times, dear sis. This is simply said a masterpiece. God bless you!!

  • ERMIAS

    Beautiful story with great lesson. The Tor Serawit did all that to a people they don’t belong to. Any one would say ‘natomsi dehan neru’. But for the PFDJ to treat their people in such a cruel way is not only senseless but also hard to understand. In their wickedness their minds and hearts are darkened.

  • Hayat Adem

    Hi Everyone,
    Great read, thanks Tzigerada.
    Everyone remembers those days and how patriotically were survived by the residents. Parents stood their ground. Youngsters had always choices to leave the cities and fight back from the fields. patriotism for the parents, heroism for the young, were the answers to the cruel excesses of the Derg. And everyone remembers every detail of the actions and reactions from back then. Like in this story, the memory of those days is fantastic and photographic. Nobody forgets those days: the derg, the residents, the fighters, the intelligence games..every thing is documented either in the papers, in the minds or in the hearts. But this is from 1975-1991.
    Call it “selective memory”. Everything post 1991 onward events- the same excesses and cruelties are voluntarily forgotten. Adey Mihret was doing what she can to support ghedli. She passed away before independence. Her kids had joined the ghedli. One gave his life in there. Her other kid made it to independent Eritrea but he has been jailed for no known charges for years. No knowledge of whereabouts, no visitation, no lawyer etc. The same residents, relatives, neighbors, friends have a different reaction, a resigned one for this: ” “ah.., kindey indiyu geyru kab z’esser…resiEnayo keman” (Oh… it has been a while since he was jailed, we even forgot about him)”
    We even forgot him! Incredible!

    • Solomon

      Selamat Ms. Hyatt Adam,

      tSigereda’s Gejeret knocks down, in succession a few dominos in several directions, splintering into varios size groupings. Some section groupings have more rappid and noisy sounds of the dominos crashing while a thin long single file fall one after another, un noticed and in audible until suddenly the last domino standing falls reaching to nudge a ball bearing that raises a flag after crashing down into the center of a multitude dominos arrangement causing as spectacular mirrage as does the raised flag with a wave does on the upper level. Before the advent of high tech and thousands of broadcasting channels, networks would televise a guiness world record attempt.

      For me tSigereda’s Gejeret caused my two marbles nestled between my scull to riccochae from tSibuQt ዥnable ኮሎkiona blankets and ድKham aytwedEi ብራthorሊ ምkhሪ, to Baryaን Gilagabርን to ዓbዱAllah, to ጽnዓት Ayuብ፡ to simultaneous linguistic divides and merging into Tigrigna and MEMORY cognitive sciences and bias(es) effects of the pilitical kinds. Plus or minus Two dominos.
      1. Yemane G BARYA!
      (Saturday 2nd allowance https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=O2WTivS8I04)

      The survival with a just cause writes the manual, me thinks.

      2. tSigereda’s and Adey MIHret’s jailed son who is forgotten

      3. Beyans multipronged arsenal knocks my domino into action in the direction of Eritrea’s Disapeared and Kerenite Mohmed Marenet jailed on June 17, 1991 brought to my attention a while back and in a more recent conversation by our friend Mr. AHmed Raji.

      June – WerHi SuAtt

      17 +2K I am certain Mr. Beyan Negash would make an excellent facilitator in a medium A,Raji and I ate thus far privy two.

      Hyatt, you wrote:
      “Parents stood their ground. Youngsters had always choices to leave the cities and fight back from the fields. patriotism for the parents, heroism for the young, were the answers to the cruel excesses of the Derg. ”

      I am addressing you, as I believe you would make an excellent addition to this 2017 grouping of dominos. I tell you candidly and with out mal intent you give some respectability to YG’s bias though I have only read only one of his essays–one about a DC accountant.

      Yes no manual but on a viceral level, June (SuE ayrsaE) 17 Esurat ayrsEu.
      From Adey MiHret’s son to Kerenite Ghadi MoHamed Maranet.
      Call it 17Y2K tag it #2,017 Dominos – Eritrea’s Prisoners….

      And Beyan no lampens and faras are a match to the Eritrea’s arsenal in Yr. 2017. Lock and load and move the Domino Sir.

      ጻጸ

  • ghezaehagos

    Selam ‘Tsigereda’,

    Thank you for sharing with us your memories of the past and its becoming another daily reality in our Eritrea.

    As you may know, there are some books written on that period. One I read is of Aba Agostinos Tedla who I believe was the head of San Francisco church at that time where thousands took refugee, including a child that was born inside the church, named Francisco. The famed priest, Aba Agostinos, also is mentioned, not surprisingly, in relation to his vocal opposition to the earlier Ona/Beskidra massacre. And later to confronting Gen. Getachew Nadew and analogizing the situation to Nero’s Rome? The good shepherd ended up in jail for speaking truth to power. Why are the people fleeing the city?

    They fled. They are fleeing.

    One of the reason we miss Asmara so terribly (I assume same to others too) is because we never left it on our accord. None of us are immigrants. We are truly refugees; forced to leave it sometimes while in the middle of doing something terribly mundane. Probably the only generation that may resided there longer in relative safety are that of the 50s and their portrayal of the City remains unmatched. Barya, Osman, Al-amin. Who really portrayed Asmara? I dunno. To some extent, it feels the foreigners did it some justice; BeAlu Girma’s Semayawit Tsbikti and some cute chapters of Michela Wrong’s “I didn’t do it for you’ come to my mind.

    If the 30 year armed struggle seeped off the best and the brightest of the City, the PFDJ regime gutted it. ‘eta hzbi jar jar zibla znebret ketema….’laments the prophet Ermias in his lamentations. ‘kusto wexiuu..wexia…ab Sudan alo..ab Ethiopia..ab Sweden….’ I know of a guy who was boasting ‘Ane’n Cathedrale’n kinterf ina..’ Now he is out. Those who stayed dream of leaving; or are busy helping their siblings and family members leave. And that is in a non-war situation.
    I think of Asmara. Constantly. I wish to walk all the roads I used to walk; see the places. I miss it-tremendously. Sometimes, the yearning becomes unbearable. Truncated dreams.

    Ghezae Hagos

    • saay7

      Selamat Ghezae:

      One of the reason we miss Asmara so terribly (I assume same to others too) is because we never left it on our accord… We are truly refugees; forced to leave it sometimes while in the middle of doing something terribly mundane.

      This is really good, and insightful. Those of us who left too young, and were bookish stay-at-homes to boot, are sometimes confused by the contrast between the real Asmara and the one in our imagination. When Tsigereda was talking about Gejeret and Lasalle, my first instinct was: you had a long, long walk. Then i took a mental note, jogged ancient memories and ah, so! The generation who came of age between 1950-1970 talk about us as “mesakin” who really never got to experience the real Asmara.

      Are you talking about the Barya video where Osman Abdulrehim greets him at the airport and they hug? Think I saw that in the 1990s on VHS. (kids: that was this thinga majig that you inserted into this other thinga majig called VCR and prayed to God that it had the right code (not European) or you were screwed.) More recently, I watched a video, a young agelglot kid reads this Tigrinya short love story, about secret love in the battlefield, to a group of sad-looking audience. I won’t give you the link over the weekend because it is pretty depressing.

      saay

      • ghezaehagos

        Selam Sal,

        On the video, yes. I assumed they are being streamed recently by the committee to help Barya family. Osman is seen hugging him; after their return home. Now one legend gone; the other to another round of exile.

        On Barya: I get genuinely shocked when I hear the late Abraham Afeworki compared to him by some people. Nothing reminds me that I am getting old than their sincerity.
        Abraham is good and very good. But Barya is the closest we have to Dylans and Lennons.

        G.

        • Saleh Johar

          Hi Ghezae, Saay and others,

          Every time I hear or read Yemane being referred as Barya, I cringe. Wouldn’t resisting the urge and educate to stop that medieval appellation be appropriate instead of repeating it with no qualms?

          Sorry, it bothers me and reading that being repeated ten times in a few hours is disturbing 🙂

          Please refer to him as Yemane. You can even give him a clean, proper nick posthumously 🙂

          • ghezaehagos

            Selam Saleh,
            Reading in the context which is more important, certainly, it is not meant to make people cringe; far the opposite, it is meant as affectionate term of endearment since he himself embraced the nick-name ‘with no qualms.’ But given the term’s sui generis is offensive, we can agree to call him by his given name, Yemane.
            Ghezae

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Ghezae,

            I recognize people do not mean to insult Yemane, but the context in which it was given to him is important. It was in a culture that didn’t mind about slavery which was eradicated from the region in the 1930 when the British forced Haile sellasse to abolish slavery. I didn’t mind it then, but to see it carried on to the Internet age, particularly by the learned and the enlightened people like you without resistance, does cause more than a cringe. I am glad you agree we should call him by his name in the future.

          • iSem

            hi Saleh:
            You are right!
            it is a common one, I am not sure about Yemane G but others with the same nick proudly invoke it. This takes us to the fact that PFDJ is so sensitive to the feeling of the Barya people that they changed their ethnic name to Nara;-)
            The said ethnic group proudly call themselves Barya and I know a kid born from Tigriniga mother and Nara father, he used to say, “anna Baryawi huru”, Chewa Barya, he was only 7

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam iSem,

            In Barya language or other Eritrean ethnic languages “Barya” is not an insult, except in Tigrinia. I think it is improper to change their name which they own for centuries, specially to “Nara” which some people pronounce or write it “Neru” or “Nera”. This too makes it an insult in the same langugage, Tigrinia where if asked , “Entai Neru or Nera?”. I wish Barya people to stick to their old name or change it to more apropriate name from Barya language after a thorough research.

            Al-Arabi

          • Ismail AA

            Hayak Allah Al-Arabi,
            They did not only compel the proud Barya to change their name, but they did not even tell them what the new name (Nara) meant, i.e. as far as I know. The regime, and since its inception as splinter faction, has been engaging in strange socio-cultural engineering. They have even tried to change or disfigure folkloric dances.
            regards

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Hayak Allah Ustaz Ismail AA,

            Why did the regime think changing Barya name? Did the Barya people demand it? The Barya are proud and courageous people, they are not ashamed of their name. All the tribes around them also do not give it any other bad meaning.

            I think, all behind this drama is the village mentality. Everything is tailored to hamlet size these guys brought up. In that village language, Barya is an insult; thus it should be changed to suit that language.

            Within the past twenty-five years many things would have been changed positively, but the problem they have severe allergy towards history. Dear uncles in Asmara, if there was shameful stains in the past, substitute them with positive works that makes you proud. Making a mistake is not the end of the world, but to continue perpetrate mistakes that is the big problem. It is good to learn replacing ugly by beautiful.

            Al-Arabi

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi iSem,

            Indeed, the term Barya was cointed by Abyssinian warlords who were enslaving the Baria and Kunama people for centuries, particularly during the Wube and Yohannes eras.

            The word for slave is “Gila” in Tigrinya, but since those who were subjected to enslavement were the Baria people, in the retarded culture, Baria became synonymous with Gila and in time, it replaced the word and became accepted to equate Baria with a slave. It’s a sad part in the history of the region and feeding the prejudice at this time is insensitive and cruel.

            The Ethiopians also had a similar problem with “Gala”, and they discovered the the people called themselves “Oromo”, and besides land reformation, that credit goes to the Derg. Our Eritrean version of the Derg institutionalized the insult instead of education the people. Their solution is to leave the prejudiced, dehumanizing appellation and instead forcing the Baria people to call themselves Nara.

            Another Ethiopian prejudice is the term “Shanqilla”, these are the people who were subjected to similar dehumanization, particularly during the chief of enslavement, king Minelik. Now they are called Benshangul, and their correct name is Beni-Shenqil, and the Ethiopian renaissance dam is in their lands. But still, Ethiopians often use the word “shanqilla”, to describe a person with African features. They also have another one: Chllo. Maybe our Ethiopian friends can explain its origin, my knowledge about that is skin deep.

          • iSem

            Hi Saleh: Thank you!
            Amazing! Not many people know that there people who are still alive in Eritrea who were slaves and people were given as wedding gifts (gezmi) to the daughter of “a royality” and
            I know of a story, this girl was married from Hamasient to Seraye, the husband was rich but she left him immediately (she told me the story herself) him milking cows and his clothes had milk stains.
            The same girl was re-married to Akel-guzay and she was given two slaves (husband and wife) and the “royality died some times in midd 2000s and the slave wife is still alive, her kids are former tegadaltiy
            It seems that sometimes people embrace demeaning names, I met this kid in Sudan and he told me he is from “Gohaff”, I think they changed the name now. Also what is “Deqqi Zeru” now has a demeaning name before and some ppl still call it that. I forgot the name.
            Now go figure when PFDJ says America was a country of slaves and your piece enlightens us that we did not fare better

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Selam Semere,

            It’s a really retarded culture. Are there other cultures in the MENA-region who have similar history and attitudes towards dark-skinned people? Or is it only Abyssinian culture? On the same note… Eti bahlinas kem ade gila/barya zbeleto eyu, fetikha xelieka ane eye adekha.

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Hagos Kahsay,

            The entire population of the region had (many still have) retarded culture, particularly when it comes to their attitude about equality of human beings, and specially women. I feel you are curious to know about the culture of the Aabs on such issues: it is one of the worst if not the worst. Referring to a black person, the word Abd (slave) comes to them naturally, they don’t blink an eye.

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Hi Saleh,

            In many places of the world, not only the Arab world, Black skin has been and still is a cause for marginalization and oppression. It’s appalling how cruel human beings can be.

            I would like to know more about the slave trade and serfdom (Tigre/Barya-Gila) within our region and to the Arab world. Where was the demand? Was it only Kunanas and Naras/Baryas affected? Who were the Sellers and buyers?

            Many questions 🙂. I would be glad if anyone could enlighten me.

            /HK

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Hagos,

            In our case, the major enslavers were Abyssinian warlords, as I said all of them between Wube and Yohannes and his generals, particularly Alula. The victims were mostly Baria and Kunama. But even the Blen and Beni Amer were victims of the Mahdi onslaught. But the Arabs has a depressingly colorful adventures with slavery. Contrary to what Eritreans are led to believe, Adulis was an important slave trading post. All those who were hauled from the hinterland passed through it, including Massawa at later stages. In Ethiopia there was equally sad reminder, read Bahru Zwde’s book for more details, but there are many books that tell such stories. The modern elite is too embarrassed to talk about it–we were just people since the creation of man! Really?

            Oral history tells us that the Keren area was inhabited by Baria (maybe together with Kunama) and then they were pushed away. I am not sure if the Eritrean Derg did any research on the tombs scattered around the area, I am sure they can tell so many stories. For example, there are huge mounds in the region, graves. I not if they were for dignitaries only (as they are few to be common tombs). Some are covered in white stones (azaHit) and other with black. Those with black are the dead whose death was not avenged, the white denote the revenge was taken, or they have no reason to seek revenge, maybe natural death. In Orota, Marya) you fins a tomb that is presumably that of Mariew and Manshiew–two brothers who killed each other by accident. Mariew is said to be the ancester of Mansa’E and Mriew of the Maria. Their third brother is TroAa, who went up the escarpment from the shores to Akele Guzai area. The three tribes pay blood money (kaHsa) together and I know thatw as the case until the seventies…. if I continue I might bore you. That, I think is enough.

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Selam Saleh,

            What a wonderful storyteller and a walking library you are. One thing that is important to remenber though is that people cannot go back in time and change historical events, but history should be told as truthfukfully as possible even if it’s ugly. So that misstakes/atrocities will not be repeated and those affected be compensated, even if it’s just symbolic or just an appology. Who should appologize? The entire oeiple of the peroetrator or the entire culture? I find a good deal of Arabs and their culture to be decent. Wirds such as Barya or any other does not mean anything, if we do not load them with meaning. For instance Habesh or Turki can become derogatory, if the person who utters the word uses it with a negative connotation. Yemane Barya was and is loved.

            I want you to continue (tesekife dea ember 😊). Thank you very much!

          • MS

            Ahlan SGJ,
            An interesting discussion; Abu Salah, you set the forum on fire, when it comes to history of that region, I believe you have been the uncontested reference! Tanks for your service, Thanks also to Haile S for your invaluable feeds. I’m sure, people whop want to write on this subject will benefit from taking note of the references you mentioned. Questions for Angafaw SGJ:
            1. Do you have any reference to your assertion that Barya was the original name of the Nara people, that the name Barya transformed to its derogatory meaning (slave) because of the practice of enslaving the Barya people, hence, “Barya people” precede the derogatory name Barya? I ask you this because I am really curious. I lived or rather was assigned in the eighties in Mogaraib (North of Gogne); the people border the Kunama to the South (Gogne/AdiQeshi) area is the contact area for the Nara and Kinam, to the West with Kunama and Elit clans, BiniAmer, and the rest with the BeniAmer. So they are fluent in Tigrayet, I believe the Nara language is gender neutral, I remember calling men ‘enti” which is a bit uncomfortable for a Tigrayet speaker. I also remember, that elderly talking of the divide between Mogolo and Mogaraib as a geographic one which resulted in some minor variation of their dialect, otherwise they were both called Nara speakers but identify themselves along clans. I also worked with Nara colleagues; my understanding is that “Barya” had existed in the Tigrigna lexicon long before the practice of enslaving the Nara or any people with dark complexions came to be prevalent. With time, the preexisting term “Barya” (slave) became synanimous with the people who were targeted for enslavement (Nara or any tribes with Dark complexions). This hypothesis contends that the term Barya, standing for “slave”, in the Tigrigna lexicon of that era, predates the enslavement of the people who spoke Nara.
            2. On Marya (Tselam/QeyaH), MensaE, and TorAa, I also heard the same oral history from the inhabitants of Marya. During the eighties there was an intensive field study done by the EPLF in Maraya QeyaH, there are still ruins in an area west of Orota (towards Himbol) called BeAat (beAat neish and BeAat Abbay. A guy who was the lead researcher once told me that those areas (Marya and environs) were where the incursions by the Habasha kingdoms, from the south, and the kingdoms of the Funj, from the north, physically and culturally.
            3. On East bound Slavery : I agree, people talk about the slave trade of West Africa, but eastern part of Africa did also have its share in slave trade. From Zanzibar of Tanzania, to Mombassa of Kenya, Somali ports (from Kismayo to Berbera, Ertirean, Sudanese, Egyptian ports were all busy. In all cases, light skinned African were trading dark skinned Africans to the Arabs. For instance, the Bantu in Somalia, not only traded to the Arabs, but they were also traded among Somalis.

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Hi Saleh,

            I wonder if you have some more info on the issue of enslavement of Barya, Kunama, Bilen and Beni Amer. What was the historical context? What tasks Dud they perform? From what year to what year did it last? how many were enslaved? Was it men and women? What happenedto their offspring?

            Many questions, hope you can answer.

            /HK

          • saay7

            Sgj,

            I think the English word for “gila” is serf and not slave.

            At least according to the political dictionaries of ELF and EPLF who added gilanet, serfdom, on the list of isms to eliminate.

            Same orgs said that slavery was extremely rare in Eritrea but common practice south of Mereb.

            saay

          • iSem

            Hi Sal:
            If gilla is serf, then the name Gila-Gabir, Gila-Mariam etc would not make sense. I think serf is “aqetay”, upgraded/more emancipated version when humanity entered Feudalism and in the Bible gila and barya both are used interchangeably. God tells Satan, Eyob bariya etc

          • Saleh Johar

            iSem,

            The bible translators are a product of their culture and vocabulary. I will not be surprised when they used Baria. But Gila Gabir would mean Abdujabbar. Gebre Amlak would mean AbdulMalik, etc…run with it so more 🙂

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hi Sem,

            The legal parameters of serf and slave is follows:

            – Serf is tied to the property. If the owner wants to sell his land, it is sold with serf. Serfs had no owners but had master. He couldn’t be sold separate of the land.
            – Slave is tied to the owner. The slave like any kind of property is owned by slaveowner. The slave can be sold, bought, gifted, or willed to beneficiaries.

            Now, tigrigna as narrow as it is “gila” represent to both of them (the serf and slave) and there is no distinction between the two words or legal terms. Don’t assume the bible will even distinguish the meaning of the two. Since the bible interchange them, it doesn’t mean they have the same meaning. Actually, gila in Gila-Mariam and Gila in Gila-Gabir are used as “servant” of Mariam and “servant” of Gabir and not as “slave or serf” of Mariam and Gabir. The bible doesn’t follow the strict linguistic meaning of the words. So gila = slave and Serf = Hidur-agelgali, and servant= Agelgali

            regards
            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Saay,

            You know I do not trust the translations were accurate though the attempt is great and commendable. If you read too much socialist literature, you tend to attempt sanitizing the terms or make them fit in the socialist narration. A serf has to be gila because he serves a feudal lord 🙂

            But iSem provided an example, Gila Gabir and it can’t mean serf of God, it is AbduJabbar, etc. That is because the religious names of Abrahamic traditions are almost similar, at least the concept is. Proclamation #1: Gila is Slave 🙂

          • saay7

            SGJ, iSem:

            Never mind all that. Never mind anything:

            Yahya Jammeh, the Gambian president who conceded his election loss, just un-conceded. BBC says he is contesting election results.

            I really really really shouldn’t be surprised by I really really really am.

            Saay

          • Saleh Johar

            Saay,
            You are to be blamed. You mispronounce his name and he might have quipped: “Me Yaya! Okay, it is Yaya who conceded, not me.”

          • Eyob Medhane

            Gash Saleh,

            Sal and his to be successor are to be blamed…The new President elect Adama Barrow, started to threaten to prosecute Jammeh and to go after his “ill gotten” billions of dollars. Instead of bygones should be bygones, he started taking these stupid liberals from the west and tried to do too much at once even before he put his foot in the office. Jammeh got alarmed and wanted to use this as a bargaining chip to protect his looted assets and wante to be cleared from prosecuted…

          • saay7

            Eyob:

            He could have used the defense used by the looter of Equatorial Guinea; the one you told me about.

            SGJ, really? You are going to give us a hard time for calling Yahya “Yaya” and overlook the fact that he insists on being addressed as His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa? Maybe, like you know who, they don’t have the “h” sound in their language. 😂

            saay

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Saay,

            I know, but I am purposely doing it: those Muziungus who set our agenda annoy me. They are up in arms agianst anyone when their financial and other interest are at stake. Like they did with Mogabe who was stubborn enough and swore he will teach them a lesson, in the peocess damaging bis country. But in principle, they targeted him only after he confiscated teh ranchs of the Whites, if he took all the huts of his people, they wouldn’t care. It might be seen as natural, to protect one’s interest, but they come as if they have wings and can fly. Pathetic. When we die and suffer, they don’t care. I hate to bite anything they throw at us. Not people like you who could defend their position, but many who make fun of Idi Amin or Mugabe, for instance, probably do not know anything about them except what was fed to them from the Muzungus. Tolerate me please, I think I am going RED on this one 🙂

          • iSem

            Sal:
            A dictator is a dictator “mehma tallet emettehu” they the would Arabs;-)
            Do not translate this for SGJ, please by the gods of cousinship;-)

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi iSem,

            The most famose Arab poet, Almutenebi also says, ‘la teshteri alabda illa wel al Aasa maAahu….’ (don’d buy a slave unless together with a stick ) a very racist poem he wrote to insult Kafoor al Akshida, the slave turned ruler of Famite Egypt. Unfortunately the poem is part of the literature curriculum is many Arab schools and you can understand why they keep saying Abd this Abd that. That SOB is really a good poet if not for his racism and excessive panhandling, by praising the power of the day!

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Ahlan Ustaz Saleh,

            It means “Nara and Mogoraib” are names of places. Please, elaborate more.

            Al-Arabi

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Hameed,

            The Mogarayeb and Nara are sections (maybe clans) within the Baria–I am not so sure but I tend to think there is a third section. They say their extension runs deep into South Sudan where they have kins. Indeed, Mogorayeb is also the name of a river and the surrounding area.

          • Solomon

            Dear Saay,

            I hate to put a monkey wrench in any thing nor do I dislike raging against the machine.(((((((((…

            Here is the drift)))))))))
            When through
            U በ ሀ በ ሀ በ ሀ በ ሀ በ ሀ the ላ በ ታ፡
            1010100001000011000 are xexien

            My NOT rehtorical question to you Captain:

            Based on the two dictionary (መዝገብ ቃላት) deffinitions of the words ጊላ and ባርያ,

            Hmmm, On a second thought, I will ask it later after giving it further thought

            DeHan Hider.

            Solomon

            ጻጸ

          • Robel Cali

            Salem Saleh,

            Actually, the Government of Eritrea calling the Barias Nara had nothing to do with their name being associated with slavery or darkness. Ethnic identity in Eritrea is based on the language one speaks. Tigrinya speakers are called Tigrinya speakers, not Kebessa or Hamasien, Seraye and Akele Guzay. Tigre speakers are called Tigre speakers not Hababs, Mensa’e, Ad Temariam, etc. The only exception are the Rashaidas. They are not called Arabic for obvious reasons. The Barias speak Nara, not Baria, hence their ethnic name being Nara.

            P.S. The Naras are infamous for their fighting skills and taking slaves of their own. Slavery was common back then.

          • Saleh Johar

            Dear Rebel Cali,

            Thank you for the insight, but unfortunately you are wrong, I think.

            The people of the Kebessa are called Habesha, most still continue to call themselves Habesha. I am one of them.

            Tigrinya is the name of the language as you alluded to. I have never heard kdan Tigrinia, but Kdan Habesha. I never heard megbi Tigrinya, but Megbi Habesha. I have never kebero Tigrinya dance, but kebero Habesha. If you want to go further, Jeberti are from the Kebesa and they do not know themselves as Tigrinya, but Habesha and they speak Tigrinya. My friend, if you are from the Highlands, you are most probably a Habesha who was baptized as Tigrinya by the PFDJ. You can either embrace it (encourage the PFDJ to go further defacing Eritrea) or reject it (hopefully to annul their social reengieering excercises). I hope you take the latter choice.

            As for the meaning of Tigre and its real meaning, there are more to it than simplistic explanation– you need to find out more.
            As Rashaida not being called Arabs you said, “for obvious reasons”. It might be obvious to you, but not to me. You might want to educate me about the obvious thing that is not so obvious for me.

            Nara and Mogoraib are two sections of the Baria people–I forgot why were they not called Mogorayeb instead of Nara since both have same weight. That is also not obvious to me. However, even the PFDJ is not clear if it has classified the people along linguistic lines or ethnic lines. If the former, then what you identified as Bhere Tigrinya must be identified as Tigrinya speakers, not Tigrinya ethnic group. Which oen is it? The answer is important because if it is not a linguistic group, most of the tribes of Sahel are known as Habab.

            Whatever you think, I believe the Baria name was changed because it is a stigma as per the PFDJ based on its meaning in Tigrinya.

            Slavery was prevalent in the past (it is also prevalent under the PFDJ, albeit in a different name and form). In the past, if you are victorious in a war, you enslave the vanguished party. I do not know of any reference to the Baria taking slaves. though the claim cannot b far from the truth in ancient war situations. But I am not talking about a situation of a just war, not the shifta type that is waged for the sole purpose of pillaging and enslaving people. Have you considered the fact that in Abyssinian languages, mzmat or mezmet, or zemecha was synonymous with a war campaign? Actually we do not use it that way, we have added a few words to explain it in the modern times 🙂

            Cheers

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hi Saleh (SGJ),

            Just to second your argument: Your right “tigrina” is the language spoken by Habesha who live in the highland of Eritrea. The rest of the argument I would love to continue the debate. I believe many unknowns are coming to the surface for enlightenments.

            Regards
            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Robel Cali,

            You said: “The only exception are the Rashaidas. They are not called Arabic for obvious reasons.”

            You are shy to mention the obvious reasons. Please, don’t feel ashamed, try to emancipate yourself and others by telling us frankly, it is for Arab-phobia and similar phobias that overwhelm the guys in Asmara.

            Al-Arabi

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Hameed,

            To me what Robel said about EPLF naming the nine ethnic based on lanuguage seems reasonable, although I can’t say much if it’s correct or not.

            What I wanted to comment on is when he said, what I understood to mean. “The only exception are the Rashaidas. They are not called Arabic for obvious reasons.”

            What I think he meant is (I will wait for him to explain) that the EPLF had no intention of making Arabic as one of Eritrea’s native language there fore instead of using Arab as ethnic group like the rest but they decided to use Rashida instead so they don’t mention Arabic.

            Dear Hameed,

            I think you have a lot of valid points and I agree with most of what you say, but sometimes you seem to jump the gun and implicate everyone who may not agree with you as Arab-phobia or other names.

            SGJ has asked him exactly to explain what he meant, but why you add other comments that you have no knowledge off, if I am looking this particular comment.

            Again I am not here to defend Robel or anyone else just a passing comment, take it for what it is.

            Berhe

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Berhe Y,

            I think all know the reason. SJ wanted to hear it from Robel, but he knows the reason more than him. Secondly, You came to excuse him, but I see your excuse is worse. There is Arab-phobia and bringing a tribe to the level of ethnic group is a vivid example of it. They would have ended up Eritrean ethnic groups to 8 according to their partition, but they brought Rashaida in a distorted way to silence Muslims in general and in their forefront those who were in EPLF. Rashaidah issue is a poorly fabricated plot.

            Betrayal of Isaias started with Muslims, but didn’t end there.

            Al-Arabi

          • Saleh Johar

            Ahlan Hameed,

            I think I have to agree with Berhe on this one, Unless someone explains what he means, it is not helpful to jump into conclusions on our own. As you said, I might be able to guess what Robel meant, but I cannot be able to interpret what he means with certainty. That is why we should give people the benefit of the doubt, and if not clear, to ask for explanation, or more elaboration. Therefore, asking for addition input while staying calm and respectful goes a long way, antagonizing comments do not help you find out what you want to know, or to convince those you are engaging with.

            The idea of this forum, as I understand it, it to foster respectful engagement and civil and honest debate. I agree, sometimes there are annoying comments or provocations, and the best way to deal with them is not to reply while in the heat of anger. If we cannot control our anger, it is better to stay away from replying until we calm down. At the end of the day, this forum is not where official resolutions are passed, it is where we learn and educate about our concerns and those of others… hopefully, we convince and be convinced. If I were you, I would listen to Berhe, he is as cool as Haleeb insa in the morning 🙂

            Cheers

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Ahalan Ustaz Saleh,

            It is not as cool as (Haleeb Ensa); it is an ash that hides behind it a fire that burns.

            Cheers.

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Hameed,

            You know who you remind me, eta negram sebeyti neSala aqebilini emo neger tereKebku nshuq kiKeyd tibl sebeyti as was told by Jende.

            Ane yigedid msaKa zeKudid belet sebeyti.

            Kab belkas yiKunelka.

            Berhe

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Berhe Y,

            Get solace in “Negram Sebeitti” and adages, that is the only refugee you have. It is good you have gotten that makes you feel relaxed, but don’t forget to free yourself from all phobias. Try to assist others also.

            I would like to remind you don’t pop to defend the mafia in Asmara who perpetrated all kinds of crimes (Zeytegbre yelen, Zeytenegre Ember) in Eritrea.

            Al-Arabi

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Hameed,

            You will never see me defend the mafia regime in Asmara or those who sympathize with him.

            If my comment appears that I am defending the regime, then you misunderstood me.

            You don’t have to tell me about the crimes, I live it everyday.

            Can you exactly tell me what phobia is that I need to free myself from.

            You make a lot of assumptions (wrong assumptions at that).

            Berhe

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Berhe Y

            I request you to visit my discussion with Hagos Kahsay before five days under article title “Use: United States of Eritrea”. Next visit the first news in “Regional New” in Awate. Lastly, go back to your “wrong assumptions”.

            Al-Arabi

          • Solomon

            Selamat Berhe-Yeman,

            ያ ‘ኸ ጀንደ: ኣብ መድረኽ ቅድሚ ርብዒ ዘክመን ነዛ ዛንታ ተሞርኪሱ ዳግምይ ሓርነት ከተማ ከረን፥ ዓሰብ ዝሓሰቦ ህዝባዊ ሰራዊት፥ ሰራዊት ደርጊ ኣብ ከረን ሃንደበታዊ ምስ ኣጓንፍ/ጸመዶ፥ ከም ኣመሉ ጸፍዖ በለና።

            ኣብዚኣ ግን ኣነ ምስ ሕሚድ ኣል ዓረቢ ኢየ ዘለኹ። ከመይ አንተ በልካ፡ ሓደ ሕደ ግዜ፡ ረጽሚ መምጽኢ ሰላም ኢዩ። ኣቶ ኣል ዓረቢ ድፋዑን መትከሉን ኣጽኒዑ ምምካቱ ኣድላይነቱ ኣይንዘንግዕ።
            ኣቶ ሰመረ ተስፋይን ጓድ ታታልቁ ዓቢ ጥራይ ተቕልቂሎም አዛ ጓይላ ታት ታት ታ ታ ታ ታ ታ ታ ታ ታ አንዳ በሉ ከይድምቛዋ።

            ደሓን ሽዑስ ማሕሙዳይ “ብሉጽ” ሳልሕ ኣብ ጎድኒ ሓሚድ ኣል ዓረቢ፥ አተን ፕሮጀክታይል ምሳይላት ከቢድ ብረቱ ጌሩ

            ማሕሙድ ከቢድ ብረት፡ ሆም ቦም ሆም ቦም ሆም ቦም ሆም ቡም
            ሓሚድተዕጻፊት ከላሽን፥ ታ ታታታታታታታታታታታታታታታ

            ኢ ሂ ታታ ‘ቱም ቱም ቱም ኣቶ ኢስማዒል እ እ፡ በታ ፋም ፋም ፋምኩም ‘ስከ አንተ ተጋግየ ኣርሙኒ።

            ሓሚድ ኣል ዓረቢ በዕል ጽንዕ መትከል፡ ስም ይመርሕ ጥዋፍ የብርህ ከም ተባህለ ፡ ብቐዳሙ አንከሉ ክንስልሶ ንሰልሶ ናምላኽ፡ አዛ ናይ ጀንደ
            ዓዋተ ዓዋተ ዓዋተ ዘረስታ ግጥሚ ከይሰንብተ ንሓሚድ እል ዕረቢ ከጋብዞ ( ክረኽባን ፍርቅለይቲ ከይ ኣኸለ ክም ሰንዳይ ሲንደረላ አንድ ትምህለልኩ ኢየ ‘ም፡ ሃየ መጅሙዓ ዓዋተ፣ ምስ ቲ ታታታታታን ሆምቦምሆም ቦም አስኹም ከ ኣ ሆ ሆ ሆ ሆየ ሆ ሆ ሆየ ኣድምጹ።

            Belu deHan ሰብ ዓዋተን ዓዋተን ቕንዩልና የቕንየልና፥ አታ ሊንክ ውን ንትምጽአ ቀዳም፡ትቐኒ።

            ኣብ ክንደኣ፡ ዓል ንበጃስታን! ኢለ፡ ንዛ ዳስ ገጀረት ጽገረዳ

            በ በ በ በ በ ታ ታ ታ ታ ሆም ቦም ሆም ቦም ፋም ፋም ፋም ሆ ሆየ ታ ታ ታ በበበበበ፡ ጽቡቕ ምለስ!

            ዓዋተ ዓዋተ ዓዋተ
            ጻጸ

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hi Saleh,

            You have said:

            ” At the end of the day this forum is not where official resolutions are passed, it is where we learn and educate about our concerns and those of the others….”

            I wish the forumers understand the spirit of this message and the objective of this platforum.

            regards

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Emma,

            The objective of this forum is to enlighten young and old and bring them together not to instigate enmity between sons and fathers.

            I eagerly wish forumers comprehend the core message of this forum.

            Al-Arabi

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hi Hameed,

            The owner of the website told you the objective of this forum as quoted in my comment. You can not amend it to your likes. Hold to it.

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Salam Emma,

            Cool down brother, it is not good for your health. I just pointed to activities you like. This is politics where all counts.

            Al-Arabi

          • Kassahun Checole

            Just a quick question to my good friend, Saleh Johar, what are the “African features” that you refer to? If you traverse the continent from North to South, East to West, you find complex, and diverse colors and ‘features”. Today, at a time, that we are fighting for an “African Union”, we need to be sensitive enough not to fall into the trap that the colonialists setup for our division and continued underdevelopment.

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Kassahun,

            Thanks for the reminder, but if you read all the comments, the reason I started this thread was to object to the way we have become so desensitized that we casually refer to Yemane by a demeaning nick. In short, you are just repeating what I advocated for. Thank you for the solidarity 🙂

            Do you really want to know what is meant by “African Feautures”?

            In the Eritrean and Ethiopian context, I am sure you know the meaning of “African Feutures”. And I am certain you know why Yemane is nicknamed “Baria.” It’s because of his African features. Dear Kassahun, rest assured, no one is falling in any trap.

            As for the “we are fighting for an African Union”, I will abstain from addressing it in this context, I don’t think it is related to the topic. But isn’t Africa (the landmass) home to many races and diverse features? In the context of Yemane, would anyone from our region refer to AbdulAlim Hafiz, non-black person, as Baria, the same way they did to Yemane? No.

            That internalized racism is what I objected to, if you correctly understood my comment.

            Take care

          • Kassahun Checole

            Thanks for your kind response. I fully understand what you mean by the word “Barya” in the context of our region in as much as I abhor someone being called an “Arab” because he/she speak Arabic or they are of a certain religious persuasion, which is also widely practiced all over Africa. The social and political connotations are surely obvious.
            In the last 1970’s when I was teaching in Mexico, both I, an Eritrean, and a dear colleague, Mohammed, from Mauritania, (of a slightly “lighter” complexion than I) clearly identified ourselves as Africans, but our Mexican colleagues and friends could not comprehend. They expected an “African” to be of “dark” skin only (also being “dark” has many complexities and dimensions). They were more comfortable of the notion of an African in what they learned from “Tarzan” films and what they knew from the little history they learned of the enslavement of “Africans”. Our Eritrean conceptions when extended to the notion of an “African” is no better.
            Try and explain that “race” and “color” are social constructs (as in the context of Barya) in our region, and people would still feel comfortable with the given than in the examination of the nuance.
            I only agree with you that the habits that we have adopted in classifying certain segments of our society continues to be a hindrance to our mental decolonization from not only those notions imposed by colonial powers, but from our homegrown “colonizations”.

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Kassahun,

            Have you seen anyone from our region refer to the Africans with light complexion, mainly in North Africa, as Africans, or as Baria? Our so-perceived progressive culture is not so and we have to come to terms with that if we can make a dent on our mentality. You also brought a good point, some people from our region do not consider themselves racists if their racism targets only Arabs! emo anes ma’as nkhali’e koyne, dey n’Areb eyye 🙂

          • iSem

            Hi Saleh:
            The Sudanese refer to the blacks in the South of their country as “aswed” and if you refer to a dark skinned North Sudanese like from Jazzira or Khartoum as as “aswed” they hastily correct you and tell you he is not “aswed” he is “akdder”

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi iSem,

            Like our Tsellam aykonetn, khederyti eyya. Telyan tmessl

          • sara

            Dear sir,
            Akhder like green..no
            May be Asmar or Arab.

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Sara,

            I don’t know why but khederay is used to describe a not dark and not light complexion, somewhere in the middle. As iSem explained, the Sudanese also say Akhdraani. That was way before Kermit the frog, shrek, the incredible hulk, and ninja characters.

          • sara

            Dear Amee saleh, One of my eritrean friends name is Khadra, are we saying her name is derived from khederay
            or akhdraani, and by that her family gave her that name to tell about her color complexion?
            akhder in arabic i think it denotes green color, like in garden… araadee khadra etc.not to a persons color.

          • iSem

            Hi Sara:
            No, asmar is their fav colour and it is like our khederay.
            I am saying if some “”non-abd” Sudanese is as dark as the southern Sudanese they refer to him as akheder
            Sudanese if they like a girl, she is asmar and her eyes are assel:-)

          • sara

            Dear sir
            I said may be asmar, but i still think they will not say akhder, may be lona fateh – fatha
            to say her skin color is not dark, but akhder? any way i know a Sudanese girl i will ask her come back to you.

          • saay7

            ISem:

            Unrelated to everything but you are a language fanatic so:

            My friend Tes (asmarino) often surprises me. This is his latest: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights translated to…Tigrayit Amazing, huh? Hope it meets with the approval of our purists:

            http://asmarino.com/tig/doc-archive/4836-universal-declaration-of-human-rights-articles-translated-into-tigre-language

            Saay

          • iSem

            Hi Sal:
            thanks. Interesting , but as per our past discussions most of the words are Arabic, not sure what the Tigrayit experts will say. But they call it Tigre Trasnlation, not Tigryat and I found it to be mostly Arabic words written in Gieeze but many classic Tigrayit and my favorites like “ltfenette” and “Hishmet” are there
            To me reading this and listening to the Tigrayit broacast frm PFDJ tells me, the langauge is in crisis, but I am not qualified to make that conclusion
            And this is happening under the watchfull eyes of its own intellectuals, “hisri allebom”:-)
            The first time iheard hisril alebu, i thought it was an accent for hasser albbo, not jokingHi Sal:
            thanks. Interesting , but as per our past discussions most of the words are Arabic, not sure what the Tigrayit experts will say. But they call it Tigre Trasnlation, not Tigryat and I found it to be mostly Arabic words written in Gieeze but many classic Tigrayit and my favorites like “ltfenette” and “Hishmet” are there
            To me reading this and listening to the Tigrayit broacast frm PFDJ tells me, the langauge is in crisis, but I am not qualified to make that conclusion
            And this is happening under the watchfull eyes of its own intellectuals, “hisri allebom”:-)
            The first time I heard hisril alebu, i thought it was an accent for hasser albbo, not joking

          • MS

            Ahlen SAAY
            I’m not a purist or an expert of the language, just a speaker. Kudos to the translator. It appears to me as professional a translation as it could get. You may pick minor issues here and there in terms of choosing terms, but, over all, a well-done job. I usually look for how approximately a term has been translated, and also the relation between the first and the fourth, (ዐቅል and ዓቅል) both have the “a” vowel sound but one is stretched, as in Arabic, the first with”fetHa”, and the second with Alf, I also watch for the silent “t”; as in ትገሳ: and between ኢገበይካ and ይገበይካ as in ኢገበይካ ባቡር or ኢገበይካመለሀይ…and so on. I hope I don’t sound a purist.

          • Hagos Kahsay

            Hi Semere,

            I remember reading somewhere that the Sudanese classify skin complexion into 5 categories.

            Azraq-Aswad-Akhdar-Ahmer-Abied. ( Blue-Black-Green-Red-White)

          • Haile S.

            Hi Saleh and all,

            You could be right, Barya (ባርያ) comes from those proud people who call themselves Barya, co-incidentally and ironically exactly in the same way slave comes from the ‘slaves’ (the east European population). Based on my Petit-Robert, a French dictionary that also tells the origin or words, escalve come from sclavus or slavus (the east european population) who were reduced to slavery by the Germanic people. Now, calling an eastern European slave is not derogatory and I agree with all those who say it is up to us to get rid of the derogatory usage instead of renaming them.
            I checked some available Tigrigna dictionaries including some Tigrigna-Italian-or-french dictionaries written end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century for missionaries purpose. ባርያ is translated as schiavo in italian, and gila (ጊልያ) as domestico, gregario, servio in Italian. The
            most compressive post-independence Tigrigna-Tigrigna dictionary written by ተክአ ተስፋይ (ዘመናዊ መዝገበ ቓላት ትግርኛ) defines it as follows (I am writing all in geez as it appears in the dictionary, sorry those who are not able to see it.
            ባርያ፣ 1 – ግዙእ፣ ጊልያ፣ ድሕር ምዝዛም ደስነት ኣብ እተቀልቀለ ማሕበረሰብ ዝነበረ ተገዛኢ መደብ።
            2 – ናዝዩጸሊምን ኮርዳድ ዝጸጉሩን ሰብ ንምንስሻው ተባሂሉ ዝዝውተር መሃይም ዘዘውትሮ ጸርፊ።
            3 – ኣብ ትሕቲ ብዕዲ ምግዛእ፣ መግዛእቲ.
            As per this dictionary barya and gila are the same.

          • Haile S.

            Please see correction

            ንኣዝዩ ጸሊምን ኮርዳድ ዝጸጉሩን ሰብ ንምንስሻው ተባሂሉ ዝዝውተር መሃይም ዘዘውትሮ ጸርፊ።

          • saay7

            Selam Haile S:

            To make it conclusive, can u look up the word “gila” in the dictionary you cited? 🙂

            Saay

          • Haile S.

            Hi Saay7,
            You got a point:
            ጊልያ፣ – ሕዱር ኣገልጋሊ፣ ግዙእ፣ ተኸታሊ፣ ሓሽከር፣ ባርያ።

          • saay7

            Ok then Haile :

            It’s the same in English: a slave is a syonym for serf. But:

            The difference between a serf and a slave ( in English): both can be abused and exploited but only a slave can be bought and sold.

            Can a “gila” be bought and sold ?

            Saay

          • Haile S.

            Hi Saa7,
            I agree with you on the first point. Can a gila be bought or sold? I assume yes, but don’t have the right answer. There is a book containing 9 collection of codes and bylaws of Eritrean regions and counties put together by 3 individuals in West Germany in 1990. Eight of them are in tigrigna and 1 in Tigre (of klete mensaA) where one can get among others information on gila/barya practices and related bylaws.
            On another note, I am new to commenting on Awate, but not new reading it. Sorry for staying a silent browser of knowledge since Awate’s inception; there are many, I suspect. I was bookworm, like you Saa7 as you mentioned somewhere down; roamed the old bookstore in Paris when I was living there, but just a ‘book-hobo’ not a professional of any related field. I was lucky to stumble one day into a small Afro-Caribbean bookshop in London-UK where I bought the Codes book. When I went back to Asmara some years ago, I went all over the bookstores I new of, couldn’t get muQur merzi, weTeTo endaboy Andu and the like, but luckily enough got a rare one, Askrna Tilyan. Sorry again for talking about myself and monopolizing the parole, but felt like it was necessary.
            S.Haile

          • saay7

            Selam Haile:

            I am glad u decided to comment and share your knowledge with awatistas.

            Our elder statesman here , Amanuel Hidrat, answered our question convincingly (imo) on the difference between a serf and a slave. A serf goes with the land (you buy the land u get the serf); whereas a slave is bought and sold.

            A very knowledgeable old lady once told me that slavery was practiced in her moms lifetime. She told me one the saddest stories I have heard: When a slave mother was putting her child to sleep (“tererwo”) she would make sure that he is not facing her so he doesn’t form an attachment as they may be sold separately.

            Saay

          • Haile S.

            Hi Saa7 and all,
            Saa7, your discovery holds, ገጀረት ዓቢ was from Gujarat-bara and ገጀረት ንእሽተይ from Gujarat-chota; courtesy of my daughter’s Gujarati BFF.
            On serious note, the lady’s story is very moving. Somehow related to it, and the only paragraph on Barya I found in srAt adkeme mlgaE (ስርዓት ኣድከመ ምልጋእ)፥
            ባርያ ምስ ጎይታኣ ከላ ካብ ባርያ እንተወለደት፣ አቲ ቆልዓ ነቲ ጎይትኣ አዩ ዝኸውን። ካብ ጭዋ አንተ ወለደት ግን ወላዲኡ አዩ ዝወስዶ። ክወስዶ ነገር ነቲ ዋና ባርያ 15 ቅርሽን 15 ፈርግን (ጋቢ ማለት አዩ) ይሃቦ። አዚ ምስኮነ ዋና ባርያ ቀለብ ቆልዓ ክቅበለ ኣይግብኦንዩ። ቀለብ እንተ ተቐበለ ግን አቲ ቆልዓ ነቲ ቀለብ ዝኸፈለ አዩ ዝኸውን። Then it goes on to say ሓራ ዝወጸ ባርያ ብባርነት ክትሓዝ ኣይግብኦን እዩ።
            Ammanuel-H’s response satisfies me as well. There are many resourceful people in this forum. SGJ’s personal observations and recollection and MS`s research based analysis were remarkable. Incidentally, no mention was made regarding Barya being the name of a population in the tigrigna-tigrigna dictionary mentioned. However, Nara is: name of a nilotic population in western lowlands of Eritrea. Hopefully, ተክአ ተስፋይ will correct it in future editions.
            S. Haile

          • tes

            Dear Saleh Johar,

            I think there are many references that can help us not to associate Barya with negative thing. In fact, barya has much more stronger essence. For example:

            Jesus Christ is called the servant when people describe his service to followers. Let me quote to this Question and Answer conversation that I got from internet(I can’t lprovide the link as per limitation of AT guidelines)

            Question: “What does the Bible say about being a servant / servanthood?”

            Answer: The Bible has a great deal to say about servanthood because the central theme of the Bible is the Servant of all—Jesus Christ. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). When we give Jesus Christ His rightful place as Lord of our lives, His lordship will be expressed in the way we serve others (Mark 9:35; 1 Peter 4:10; John 15:12-13). How can we demonstrate love for God? Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others. “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Tes,

            As I guessed, gila and agelgali have different meanings. The first is, slave, the latter, servant.

            Thank you

          • tes

            Dear Saleh Johar,

            I am aware that the word “barya” is derogatory” in the Eritrean context as “Tigre” is to those people who speak Tigrite”. Apart from its international implication and politics, I know families who are still refered as”barya” -not the “good-barya” which indicates servicehood” but on “color”. Even I remember a family refusing to give their daughter to other families who are refered as “barya”.

            Let me saysomething on this case as it is important case for future study.

            Two lovers fall in victim of this “barya” labeling. Both became victims of intense and terrible family confrontation. Both the lovers were my classmates in my junior class. they continued their close relationship till they finish high school (in fact the boy went to natioanl service – aka slavery) way before he finished our junior class. In 2005, they decided to enforce their 10 years relationship through marriage. They decided and shared with family. The mother of the lady refused by referring the family “ምስ’ዞም ባርያ።” Both families went into open and intense fighting. Defamation, labeling, cursing, what can I say. But this didn’t stop the lovers from getting married. But the lady was deeply hearted as her family were those who were refusing strongly. She got internal complication, depression, etc. During their honeymoon, she got pregnant. She was not happy at all. her husband was in the military and his help was almost zero. sadly the woman died while she was giving a birth in the hospital. Their beautiful child is now I think almost 10 years old. But the family relation got from worse to worse and I don’t think they will reconciale unless some wise people let them understand such thing is absolutely wrong.

            I am bringing this just to highlight some of our exisiting social problems in relation to the connotaion “barya”. I didn’t forget also the case for Tigrait speaking people who are now referred as “Tigre meaning Slave though with a different narration.

            tes

            PS: As per #2, you better know Yemane Barya than me. I am speaking from what I heard, read and watched about Yemane barya.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hi Saleh (SGJ),

            You are right “Gila” and “Agelgali” are different words of different for different applications. And you are right Gila = slave and Agelgali = servant. You are also right our artist Yemane should be called by his real.

            regards

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Tes,

            Really? Why do you think they call Yemane that? Because he was handsome? It was because of his dark complexion. But if you think otherwise, who am I to object 🙂

            1. Your number one and three are the correct descriptions.
            2. # 2 is out of place, I think. Yemane was an artist and what he did was practice his talents, he was not serving the people though on the way, he inspired many. Even if that was the case, we can’t go on calling people who served the people “Baria”.

            Do I make sense?

            Saleh

          • Ismail AA

            Ahlen Saleh,
            I heard from several people, including from my dear wife, that Yemane G. used to help individuals in dire need during his stay in Khartoum. His house was always crowded with lodgers who did not have anywhere to go after their arrival. Moreover, I am told that he helped for free people who were in need for travel documents. Yemane was not only an artist for singing and lyrics writing but was also good in designing documents. I think tes was referring to those qualities, if I am mistaken, I stand for correction.
            Regards

  • GG MM

    Selam Tzigereda,

    Oh my goodness, I thought I was reading my own story. I grew up in gejeret around San Franchesco
    church and was a little kid in 1975. I went to school at Lasale and Amanuel school……aba gaber!! Took a refugee at San Franchesco for some time before the entire family went to my dad’s village. The rest is history.

    Some of my teachers were Fratello Amine, Fratello Gedel and Fratello Keflesus etc. And my principal at Amannuel school was Memher Debesai!

    Thank you for the excellent piece.

  • iSem

    Hi Tzigereda:
    what can one say to this piece, except masterpiece, worth waiting for after the secret of the night?
    Well two friends, sometimes they call each other cousins, they go by the anglicized name Sal and Sem know when they see a talent, and expressed their fondness and one of them made a comment once to you that you need to show up often as you have a sobering and calming effect in one and it
    Well Done

  • sara

    Dear Tzegereda
    this looks a chapter from your “memoir” book you intend to publish in future, good try and we will wait for the book release in Asmara hopefully by 2020.
    I have a question though,
    – do you know by any chance why that place is called gejeret, and which gejeret do you hail from?
    – I read one of the commentator saying haileslassie and Dergi are better for eritrea than PFDJ etc
    do you agree with him?

    • GG MM

      Selam sara,
      Don’t know but I know it used to be called ‘adi mender’ before called gejeret.

      • sara

        Dear GG MM
        some where here i read the name Gejeret is because earlier people from Gujarat India settled there,
        no wonder many young people i knew from Gejeret used to love Indian music movies. in-fact i was
        to upload a link to one Indian song that i once heard it sang by a student during one school event in camboni.
        btw, Gujrat in India is the birth place of Mahtam Gandi, I think our sis tzegereda should search here
        lineage before she finishes here book , who knows that could bring a good story and an activist with
        link to Gandigi.

  • Solomon

    Selamat tSigereda,

    My earliest memories are, circa 1975, the several weeks anual vacation visits to Gejeret all the way from Barka. Though I can hear the same tense whispers you speak of, my only concern back then was to purchase TaErifa’s worth of marbles/Balina from that Dukan on the “high escarpments” next to enda Gabir, most likely where Adey MiHret and your Adey prayed for their children.

    Engineer Asgedom’s melodic tune speaks of that same year 1975.
    “እደ ስውአ ኣደ ጅግና
    ማዓንጣኺ ‘ሰርዮ ብግመድ.
    ….

    ብሰብዓን ሓሙሽተን ብጥይት ሓሪራ
    ኣብ ማአከል ኣስመራ…..”

    Thank you for your sincere narative of Gejeret.

    ጻጸ

  • saay7

    Selam tzigereda:

    A poignant story, made more moving by its matter-of-factness. When one considers this is the story of one neighborhood in an Eritrean city, in one year, 1975–and then u consider that this has been going on in Eritrea for 55 years in every hamlet… maybe we are all descendants of Prophet Job (Ayoub) of whom we are told (by the Koran and Bible) that God allowed the devil to test his faith. Except here it’s not God but demanding Eritrea testing testing testing.

    Thanks Tzigereda. From that era of Piano wire killers, random search party, what I remember is mothers hurry to destroy family pictures…for anyone in a picture not in the house was assumed to be a wenbede (rebel.) and that’s why we have no pictures of older cousins and uncles.

    The saddest story you told is of your Eritrean contact who, when asked about a prisoner, says we have forgotten all about him. Our friend Habtom Yohannes has a quote he uses often that we should take to heart: that the most relentless war dictators wage is against our memories.

    Ah, Eritrea. Today Ghana had its election, and Ghana allows prisoners to exercise their right to vote. Meanwhile, Eritrea under PFDJ demands that we forget our prisoners.

    Saay

  • Burhan Ali

    Selamat Tzigereda,

    A sad story indeed, one, which certainly, have scratched in many, wounds that haven’t yet healed. I don’t remember who said it but I second him, whoever he was who said this: “funny how a beautiful song could tell such a sad story” .

  • MS

    Dear Tzegered
    Very nice of you Tzegereda, you brought a variety in tone and substance, beautifully written. Thanks. Yep, there is no explanation why Eritreans should go through this hellish debacle, nothing can explain it, not the border war, and not any of the external suspects. No one can explain why the jailed son of Mehret is languishing in prison without a day in court; no one can explain why Eritreans have become the pawns of few rascals.
    *************
    As far as your questions are concerned (a bit of humor is not bad):
    1. Can I go to Eritrea and be able to see the jailed son of Adey Mihret, my neighbor, my idol of perseverance and the very symbol of the epic struggle of Eritrea?
    Answer: Yes, just bring blankets and pillows with you, because you never know when you could return back safely (if at all possible).
    2. Can I go and take a lawyer to defend his right to due legal process?
    Answer: Legal process? That phrase has been placed and explained wrongly (by design) in PFDJ dictionary. Fozia Hashem continues to lecture the nation in interviews under the auspices of the “New Laws”, she still is using the old PFDJ definition. Tzigereda, better not try.

  • Haile S.

    Hi Tzigereda,

    A great excursion into the turbulent times, ቶግ ቶግ ዝተጀመረሉ as it is known in Tigrigna. I concur with you, those Fratellis and Abas deserve all the credit and gratitude for providing the haven the people were deprived of in their own homes. Holy places had still certain respect at that time; though they didn’t stay immune for long. I am from the same area and period you narrated and felt it was I who was pronouncing those words, though admittedly wouldn’t have done as splendidly as you did.

  • Brhan

    Hello Tzigereda,
    The article reflects every Eritrean unforgettable memory. A memory about Eritreans’ steadfastness in their role in the struggle for independence. Every dweller of a village, alley, street, etc., shares your story. A dweller that found dreams shattered.
    But your article also raises a significant question: It is not only about why the regime has made many Eritreans like the son of Adey Mihret languish in prison, but also it is about why are people forgetting that we have Eritreans languishing in a prison. You article in fact repeats Burhan Ali’s point in his excellent article ” Anatomy of Proverbs”.
    Not only this issue of “forgetting” must be addressed thoroughly but also the issue of some of Eritreans absurd acts: acts like contributing to the many Gulyas of the regime.

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Tzigereda,

    You are one of the good story tellers. Good reading, though the story is painful to make you think on the plight of every Eritrean family is passing through. Unfortunately, the current plight of our people is worse than during the era of HS and Derg.

    regards,

  • Ismail AA

    Selam Tzigereda,
    Thank you. It’s an excellent article. It is lucid, simple and coherently written piece that makes one enjoy it like a war-time novel. It sums up the terrible episodes families of our people had passed throughout the liberation war decades. The saddest part of it all is that the Eritrean families are still enduring the same or even worse ordeals under the current dictatorship.
    Regards.

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