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Happy Double Awate Day

(This is a close English translation of the Tigrinya content of Negarit #100 video on YouTube channel)

Happy September 1 for all of you.

Our culture teaches us that one who is not grateful to fellow human beings is unable to be grateful to God.

As we all know, Hamid Idris Awate is not only a martyr. He is not only a heroic leader. He is not only the man who started the armed struggle. But he is an embodiment of the spirit of struggle that should lead us all. And the legacy of Awate and his spirit, is bigger than his name or what he did. That is why I believe we should adhere to his guidance and hold his legacy diligently and with utmost respect.

When Eritreans started the armed struggle, they had no idea the journey would take this long. But considering what the straggle faced–regional and international interference, and political conflicts among the many vested parties–the pursuit for freedom become a long journey.

Furthermore, we failed to successfully challenge the post-independence oppression, so far. However, we can’t watch the situation as bystanders, and we must continue struggling to achieve the freedom and liberation that Eritreans earned. But one does not stop a struggle midway; it is a journey that ends when one reaches the destination, and time of reaching the destination depends on many factors. True patriots do not drop out because the going gets tough, or because they faced demoralizing developments.

Naturally, people do not wage a struggle for a fixed period of time, with an end date appointment; a struggle  continues until one reaches the end–we must print such beliefs in our mind.

Those who are too young might not have a clear picture of Awate because as time passes, historical events and their context become foggy or purposely distorted. Preferably, our historical narration shouldn’t have been partisan. It should not have been used to defame and vilify actors and actions that doesn’t serve a certain partisan interest. But it was not so, and that has hurt our collective knowledge of our past and we couldn’t develop a common narration. Sadly, after the independence of Eritrea, we were not lucky to have an enlightened and wise leadership, on the contrary, we have to deal with a partisan clique that prefers to live in the past. For those of us who grew up following the heroism of Awate, his influence is immensely present in our psyche and character. Here. please note that my experiences are not necessarily individual to me; I share it with my peers, my generation, and the generation before me.

I believe it time that we came to terms with all aspects of our history—it’s good, its bad, and its ugly parts—and we must learn from it. That is why on Awate Day, we must remember the cause of our struggle and renew our commitment to the rejection of subjugation and oppression. We should remember that the struggle was to uphold individual freedoms, to implement rule of law, and to eradicate fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, we haven’t achieved these ideals though in time, we will certainly do.

What was the history and experiences of my generation?

Probably because I am inquisitive, and maybe the situation was favorable for me to learn the tough lessons, and my character is shaped by  my childhood and adulthood. But since there were many people who had influenced my thinking, I would like to acknowledge a representative sample of them, just to satisfy my urge to show my gratitude–it’s our culture to do so. However, culture and tradition is not something you hold to or reject wholesale; we must be selective in choosing what to keep and what to reject.

I dedicate this episode to my martyred friend, Bashir Osman Neberay.

In the time when I was financially stable, I had wishes to build a memorial for Bashir, in a form of a school or a library in Barentu where he fell fighting the occupational army—I hope someday I will do that. The background outro and intro music Negarit 100 is dedicated to my friend Bashir. I wrote the lyrics (poem) and my talented youngest brother Ahmed Abdulrahim composed and played the song. But Bashir is a representative sample of many of my peers who fell in serving the cause of their people. Unfortunately, the ruling party does not encourage mentioning and glorifying our heroes individually; they would rather have people remember the martyrs collectively, as numbers, faceless and nameless.

In defiance to that imposed culture,  I would like to remember my hero uncle, the martyr Saeed Saleh who used to take me on a bicycle rides when I was a child. I would like to remember my classmates, the martyred brothers Gebreqedus and Gebreluel, I would like to remember Yassin, Hagos, Mahmoud Hanafi. I also would like to remember those I grew up admiring: Martyr Checkini, and his brother Idris Quraish. Martyr Ba-Shemel, Hamid Amharay, martyrs Abdu Mahmoudai. I also remember my elders, Haji Yassin Blatta, Adam Geduf, Mahmoud Amman Taha, Abdelkarim Saeed Qassim Suleiman Merrir and many, many others.

Particularly I would like to remember Ustaz Mohammed Mranet, who recruited me as a member of the struggle when I was a young boy. After the independence of Eritrea, the PFDJ regime arrested Ustaz, Mohammed, a respected man and a judge, and nothing was heard of him ever since.

All my respect and gratitude to all of the heroes and heroines.

I also want to remember my late father Abubaker Abdulrahim who raised me in an environment of patriotism, selflessness and perseverance. I am what he raised me to be and I am thankful, proud that he, together with the people I mentioned above, shaped my character.

Awate.com

In 2000, we named this website after the giant hero Hamid Idris Awate. At the time, I faced vicious attacks and vilifications because I dared to resurrect Hamid Idris Awate’s name that they wanted to be forgotten. That name as supposed to be obscured and erased from our memories, but I decided to challenge the erasing of our legacy and did my part. What I went through because of that decision is too painful to remember. But to what extent we were successful in protecting the name of Awate, I would leave for the observers to decide.

Twenty years ago when the Internet was not this developed, and when cellphone era was not yet upon us, the internet speed was 512kb. Before fake news, and other defamation mails, the supporters of the regime used other tactics to disrupt our operation—they regularly flooded our email boxes with large images and spam and regularly caused our system to crush or freeze, thus wasting our time.

The second thing worth mentioning is how we broke the taboo of having pictures of leaders on the Internet. Until then, leaders avoided having their pictures published—the first opposition leader whose digital picture appeared on the internet was the late Seyoum Ogbamichel. It took us too long to convince him to have his picture taken when we conducted an interview with him in San Jose. When he finally agreed, we had his postage stamp size picture appear along with the interview. The taboo was broken, and soon people were so happy to have their pictures on the internet. However, we had no idea we will arrive at the narcissistic age of selfies!

The third major thing I would like to mention is awate.com’s role in documenting for an era. We have thousands of files in our archives and we can only imagine how excited future researchers and students will be to have it. Thanks to awate and other responsible websites, the narration of post-independence Eritrea is not monopolized by the PFDJ, there are many perspectives in the archives.

Many people do not know (or do not appreciate) the efforts that goes behind running a website. It takes a clear vision, relentless work, and selfless service. Anyone can launch a two- or three-page website, but running it is a different challenge. During the last two decades, I have spent at least 30,000 hours in running awate.com. Once a man asked me who pays me? I told him it’s a labor of love, a public service. He mocked me: imagine how much you would have earned if you just flipped hamburgers in a joint for $12 an hour! He thought I was foolish to work for no pay!

In addition, imagine the hours that my of my colleagues and volunteers put behind awate.com? I can comfortably say it exceeds 100,000 man-hours. Awate.com is what it is because of the wide network of friends, colleagues and sympathizers. Thank you all.

But recently we have arrived at the age of satellites and I think there are over a dozen entities and individuals who have said they will go the satellite television path. All power to them. But in the Eritrean situation, it’s not only that political organizations that mushroom, media outlets are even worse. Anyone with a cellphone and a Facebook account can think of themselves as CNN. But believing that illusion has proven to be detrimental to the information flow and political well-being of Eritreans. It’s good to express one’s views… and diversity of opinions are good for the development of societies. However, without a sense of responsibility, everything is wasted in vain.

We struggle because we have conscience and we do not want our conscience to hurt—people who are content with their conscience sleep like a baby. WE must strive to have a guiltless conscience. We have an unfinished job and we must keep working. But every now and then, we need to stop and assess or performance and implement corrective measures.

And before I end this, please note that we have no sponsors, no NGO’s, or deep-pocketed interest groups that fund us. Our $12,000/year budget is self-funded with the support of our readers and friends of awate.com. This year, since the outbreak of the Covid epidemic, we haven’t campaigned for fundraising, (we are not good at that anyway). Therefore, we urge you to support awate.com to reach its yearly goal so that we can stop worrying about expenses and instead spend our time in what we are supposed to do: creating content.

Finally, what awaits us ahead is not more difficult than what we went through. Stay focused, and let’s hasten the day when our people will be free, and truly liberated.

Happy Double Awate day.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

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

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  • Kokhob Selam
    • Sultan

      Dr Kokheb:
      Made it go viral thru the FB.
      Keep them coming in an organized manner thru your YouTube channel….
      Hope you compiled them in a book as I repeatedly appealed to you.

  • Selam All,

    At last, who owns Alexander Pushkin, Eritreans, Ethiopians or Cameroonians? Why should anyone of them own him anyway, as long as the poet and novelist was only about 12% African and more than 85% Russian, after four generations?
    Stop, don’t run away, guys. If there is anybody to be owned, it is his great grandfather, Abram Hannibal, a pure African, with no problem attached, but with one caveat, most probably he was born in Cameroon near lake Chad, as entertained by recent historians. There goes all the myth and the streets named after A. Pushkin in Addis and Asmara and the statutes erected for him. Could that bring to the end the fight over ownership?
    If the aim is to own the legacy of a great man, why not Abram Hannibal, who was an engineer and a general in Peter the Great’s army? He was 100%, not 12% African as Pushkin.
    By the way, was it his great grandfather or mother? I have read the one or the other mentioned by different writers.

    • Nitricc

      There goes all the myth and the streets named after A. Pushkin in Addis and Asmara and the statutes erected for him.

      Hi Horizon; there is a statue in Addis too? this is crazy, who cares? I am just disappointed with government of Eritrea. I have no idea how they can fall for this….nothing but embarrassing and shameful deed.

  • Fanti Ghana

    Selam All,

    Happy Double Awate Day to you all. May peace prevail on Eritrea!

  • Haile S.

    Selam Saleh-GJ, Ismail AA and all other veterans,

    Allow me to ask you this favor. Could you go to tesfanews and check the latest article on Bahti meskerem and look at the last 8-panel photo, alternatively check it on Yemane-GM’s twit, ዋላ ኢድኩም ጸላዕላዕ እንዳበለኩም፡ በጃኹም? My question is, is the fighter in the middle of the first 3 photos standing holding a gun, between Awate riding a horse on the right and the young Comrade Isayas on the left, Awate himself? Your comments on the other photos is also welcome! BTW, based on this article, we have now a statue of Awate and hus horse standing at the edge of Gerset-Dam. It needs to be moved to stand at Bahti meskerem square in Asmara.

    • Saleh Johar

      HaileS
      I am afraid your question is not very clear.
      Though I don’t know who the people in the picture are, it seem from the early seventies–by then Awate was long gone.

      • Haile S.

        Thank you Ssleh,
        My question was, is the man standing alone, Awate? But I got your answer, you don’t think do. Merci cher ami!

    • Nitricc

      we have now a statue of Awate and his horse standing at the edge of Gerset-Dam. It needs to be moved to stand at Bahti meskerem square in Asmara.

      Hi Haile; I am not sure if I agree with the above statement. The idea of SHIDA in Asmara to represent the brave fighters is brilliant. If you started putting statues of heroes, then you are in for messy and unfair process. Eritrea owns many heroes from fighters to community leaders, it is impossible. If you start with Awate then people will wonder why not Kebire, why not Ibrahim Sultan, why not WeldeAb weldemariam, why Ibrahim Affa. you get my drift. I think it should stay were it is in my opinion.

      • Haile S.

        Sekam Nitricc,

        Why not! for all those you mentioned. It can be done one way or the other. We have many cities beside Asmara. But there are few deserving ones, and Awate is one of them. The guy from Central/West Africa (Abraham Hanibal) is even standing infront of the Asmara public library (ancient American library)!

        • Nitricc

          Hi Haile; i see your point, however; I do believe anyone who picked arm and fought for the greater good is deserving of their own statues. I don’t where Awate is from but say if he is from Tesenay; then put it in Teseney. I am a beleiver that Shida in Asmara is the most brilliant, fair and done correctly and in mind i don’t want to upset anything. Regarding Abraham Hanibal; i am still confused and intrigued about that one. I don’t know!!!

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Nitricc,
            You have a view of present and future statues but you have no idea about Pushkin’s! How come?

          • Nitricc

            Hi SG; I don’t know who the guy is and I don’t want know. i don’t agree and approve his statues let alone in Asmara but any where in Eritrea. that was a bone head move, just stupid.

          • Saleh Johar

            Nitricc,
            That’s what I expected. Now you made it clear. Thank you

          • Nitricc

            Hi SG; if i was in authority; the first thing i will do is crushed the freaking statues with NTNT. I just can figured it out whose decision was to built such a shameful statues.

          • Consolation

            Nitricc,

            It was a very smart diplomatic gesture when Eritrea was totally isolated by the Western powers. How much Russian goodwill it generated we may not exactly know, but that it did cannot be denied, Besides, Pushkin is an Eritrean by ancestry!

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            Consolation
            If that is the case, next will be Hatsey Tedros. I am sure you will say a diplomatic gesture.

          • Consolation

            MM,

            That is a very stupid comment. Have you never heard of “f you have nothing intelligent to say, say nothing at all”?

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            Consolation
            I hit the hgdf nerve, I guess? All I have used is your own statement. Reread you comment again. I guess, when it is not yours, it is easy to forget. Call the Adi-Halo office before your answer this.

          • Consolation

            MM,

            As I said, that is a very stupid comment. Now try to explain, at least to yourself, how the connection between Hatsey Tedros and Pushkin arose to your brain.

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            Consolation
            They are both foreigners to me.

          • Consolation

            MM,

            That is exactly how I thought your mind was working. I am sure you have heard not to compare oranges and apples, although people like you do because they are both spherical. Now chew on that and understand why I said your comment is stupid. BTW what can one expect from someone who bases his arguments on BBC Tigrigna. I rest my case.

          • hawkeye

            Actually Pushkin’s ancestry is debated, but most scholars say his African ancestor is most likely from modern-day Cameroon.

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

            hawkeye
            BBC Tigrigna had an article about him few weeks ago and it states his ancestors are either from Mali or Cameroon, etc.

        • David Samson

          Selam Haile,

          “he grandchild of the guy from Central/West Africa
          (Abraham Hanibal)”(AH).

          First, I know many cultures and regions of Africa have claimed AH as they theirs.

          Second, I do not care if he has East African roots. He is Ruski through and through. The only reason that most Africans rushed to get hold of his trophy was simple because he has a positive image. If he were a mugger or murderer, he would have thrown off the land and sea from all directions.

          Having said that the above statement caught my eyes. If we were to believe the last saga and twist on AH’s roots, we can’t ignore the
          Habesha Land. According to some version of AH’s story, he was taken out or sold as a slave by the Ottomans. If we were to believe this version, how do we reconcile to the fact the Ottomans did not venture out to Central/West Africa?

          • Nitricc

            Hi Dawit; i have one question for you, with respect, because that is your god given right but are you Agazian? be honest.

          • Haile S.

            Selam Dawit,

            I agree with you. He is claimed by everyone because of his achievement. The life of Abram Hanibal is well documented starting Istambul. It is his life before which remains unknown and open for all kind of speculation.

            Regarding the origin of slaves going to the Ottomans, they came from all Africa through different routes. If you search slavery in Africa in wikipedia, you will see a text and a map that answers your question.

          • Saleh Johar

            David,
            The lots we know are the epitome of schizophrenia. How do they justify retroactively bestowing an Eritrean citizen on Pushkin, when he and his immediate ancestors were either Turks or Ruskis, and distance those born and raised in Eritrea because they have an ancestry from cross the border? And they shout empty slogans they don’t believe in: Democracy, justice, rights, etc. Disgusting.

    • Sultan

      SeLam Hailat:
      I don’t believe the fighter in the middle is Idris Hamid Awate based on:
      -The AK-47 he is carrying( rather than an Abu Ashera)
      -Comparing the photo with the “ real” Awate on the horse
      I could have guessed as to who he might be but will consult with few ELF Seniors who might have an idea as to who that fighter is.

      • Haile S.

        Selam Sultan,

        Thank you. The reason why I was asking was that the composition of the images could give rise to confusion. Lining up a fighter on the top between Isayas and Awate (presumed) on horse could give rise to imagination like mine. Could this guy be him(Awate) or another important figure? I accept Saleh’s and your verdict. Please come back if you get more info.

  • Brhan

    Thanks Saleh for the episode,

    ዓዋተ ተሰወአ ግን ደቂ ወለደ استشهد عواتي تاركا احفاد
    ንናጽነት ዝተጋደሉ ኮይኖም ሓደ الذين كافحوا للحرية بيد واحد
    ሕጂ እውን ንውልቀ መላኺ ዝብሉ ዕደ والان يقولون لا للمستبد

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Awatistas,

    Happy September 1, the symbol of Eritrean defiance and the beginning of our arduous armed struggle by Idris Hamid Awate – a noble journey to fulfill the aspirations of Eritrean people. Happy the 20th anniversary of awate.com, marching in the spirit of Idris Hamid Awate, to fulfill the unfinished struggle for liberty and justice.

    Regards

  • Ismail AA

    Selam to all,
    Happy 59th anniversary day to the Eritrean people and peace and freedom cherishing free peoples of the world, and special salute to the 20th birthday of Awate.com.

    • Kokhob Selam

      Thank you Ismail..

      As Jebena page representative, and as an Eritrean let me wish to all my best future win and success in this long struggle.

      “.We struggle because we have conscience and we do not want our conscience to hurt—people who are content with their conscience sleep like a baby. We struggle because we have conscience and we do not want our conscience to hurt—people who are content with their conscience sleep like a baby. ” Thank you for this very nice statement and congratulation Mr.Saleh Johar..

      Thank you all..

      KS,,

    • Dongolo

      Selam Ismail AA. With all due respect, an opposition website should never celebrate its 20th year of existence for it serves as a benchmark of its ineffectiveness for two decades. To the contrary, it should only celebrate upon achievement of its goal when it is rendered unnecessary.

      • Ismail AA

        Selam Dongolo,

        The respect is sincerely mutual. I do not think adopting a particular political stance on one thing or the other should shroud our mind and impair our endowed faculties for fair judgement. The meer fact that you and I could use this space to talk to one another is no mean achievement. To begin with, no one with sane mind did expect Awate.com would single-handedly get rid of the regime. Nonetheless, any fair-minded Eritrean cannot deny the role this great web site has played in nurturing people’s understanding of the crisis the authoritarian regime has imposed on our country.

        • Brhan

          Ahlan Ustaz Ismail
          For Dongolo the intention was to conduct character assassination against the website. It is like what Trump says against CNN as an example.
          People like Dongolo who have no clue about the role of a media will always attack free media.

      • Brhan

        Hello Dongolo,
        “An opposition website”
        Do you understand the term the fourth state. Or as PF(DJ) cadre, you have never come such term. If there was no topic in your class about the role of a media, it is because , there was no say about freedom of speech at all. I understand your incompetence.

      • Abi

        Hello Dongolo
        Are there really Eritrean opposition parties in the true sense of opposition or are they merely mouthpieces of the notorious Tplf thugs. I always believe these opposition parties are designed and manufactured in Mekele , maintained and promoted in Debrezeit and Bahir Dar. They are also subject to seasonal dismantling and remolding when needed, all by the notorious Tplf thugs.
        ወይአነ በአምሳሉ የፈጠራቸው…