“If“Ethiopians in DC demand justice in the brutal murder of Ali Mohammed : WASHINGTON – Hundreds of people gathered in sadness to remember a 27-year-old man who died near the popular DC9 nightclub last Friday.
The candlelight vigil quickly turned to anger over the alleged attack of Ali Mohammed. It was an emotional evening as the crowd poured into the street and shut down the intersection of 9th and U Street, NW” News report from The Washington Times . Oct 19, 2010.
Before I begin my main article, I want to congratulate our friend and colleague, Saleh Gadi for his successful and highly inspiring book, Of kings And Bandits. The book shows the writer’s mastery and skill in describing and bringing to life of a highly tumultuous and traumatic Era in Eritrea’s history. Saleh, craftily described every day life, the ever changing political dynamics, society, cultures and norms of many people and historic events of the roaring 60’s and 70’s in Eritrea and to some extent, even in Ethiopia. Though the book focused on events taking place mainly in the beautiful city of Keren, it reflects correctly on similar events taking place in those good old days all over Eritrea. Saleh” Gadi” Johar’s book is of great importance and highly valuable to those young Eritreans who were not born or didn’t come to age in those glorious days, or to those who were there but still need a powerful reminder of what took place in these enigmatic land called Eritrea. Congratulations and well done brother Saleh on your wonderful book and hope to see Part Two or three or who knows maybe even part four.
I have never met Ali Mohammed Galtchu. May be we have crossed each other’s path one day, as residents of the same city and neighborhoods in the vicinities of Washington. May be I have seen him somewhere. Ali Mohammed, a young Ethiopian resident of Silver Spring, MD, was murdered by some five or more people in what the DC police chief Cathy Lanier called a kind of vigilante justice. Almost three weeks ago, according to reports, there was an altercation of sorts with the young Ali and the owners and employees of Club 9, a prominent DC club. Reports indicate that Ali was ejected forcefully and unceremoniously from the club. Ali was enraged by this callous act of the club employees and hurled a stone or a piece of brick and smashed the windows of the club. All hell broke loose after that. Some five or six workers of the club, together with the owner, rushed outside and beat the young Ethiopian mercilessly for hours on the street. Ali Mohammed died shortly after he reached the hospital. He was 27 years old.
Esteemed readers, the purpose of this writing is not to report about the circumstances of Mr. Ali’s death, police reports, and related stuff. But what I want to write is about the response, unity, sprit of camaraderie and mass actions shown by the large Ethiopian community in the Washington DC area. When the news of the brutal death of Ali and the possible release of the killers was heard, thousands of Ethiopians demonstrated and held a massive candle light vigil and protest in front of the club in downtown Washington, DC. Protesters, including Ali Mohammed’s extended family were shouting “we demand justice” and wanted Ali’s killers punished without delay and this can’t go unpunished in the united states, Justice for Ali…!” Many news agencies, including prominent TV channels and radio stations broadcasted this act of defiance and unity by the Ethiopian community for days and it is going on as of the writing of this article. American Journalists interviewed Ali Mohammed Galtchu’s family, prominent community leaders and some other Ethiopians about the event. One of them was heard saying ….” It doesn’t matter, it can take a year or ten years, but we will never let our brother Ali’s killers go unpunished…..rest assured, the killers of Ali will never sleep even for one day. We will fight!…..”
This kind of camaraderie and community sprit is not only lacking among Eritreans, but it is on the verge of extinction altogether. Many Eritreans in the Diasporas, though they profess to be opponents of the tyrannical regime in Eritrea and are for justice in their homeland, they are way short and far behind when it comes to real action and dedication to a cause. Thousands of Eritreans among the Diasporas only give lip service to the notion of community action, helping each other and utilizing the laws of the land to their best use. Quite a large number of Africans are living as refuges and citizens in the United Sates. Many are active in community activities and stand for each other in times of crisis. Somalis, Ethiopians, Cameroonians, Nigerians, Kenyans, Egyptians, Ghanaians, Liberians, etc, are extremely tight knit and quite active in the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, conditions of political prisoners and rule of law in their native lands. If they see or happen to know about any criminal or butcher from their land residing in the US, they are very fast in reporting to the US immigration authorities, homeland security and releated government agencies.
Almost three month ago, some five Somali taxi drivers living in the state of Virginia sued one of the worst Somali human rights violators in the times of former President Siad Barre. These brave Somalis successfully sued and brought to justice the former Somali Prime Minster known as the killer of Hargiesa for his notorious massacre in the city of Hargiesa in the mid-eighties. The accused, Mohammed Samatar is an old frail man with chronic diabetes. But justice is justice and thanks to these daring Somali immigrants, his case was brought to the supreme court of the US. When a prominent Cameroonian official, who was known for his cruelty, especially in the brutal crackdown and massacre of university students in the town of Buya, came to the US and asked for asylum, thousands of Cameroonians protested vehemently, wrote hundreds of letters to immigration officials, the FBI and to their senators and the assassin of Buya was subsequently deported by the US authorities, thanks to these heroic Cameroonians. Every time, Ethiopians see any member of the Derg regime, who committed crimes or partakes in any human rights violations back home, here in the US and every where, they are quick to take all the appropriate actions. The case of Negewo Kelbesa, the fascistic torturer who was a vicious and sadistic tormentor of countless Ethiopian youth in those terrible years of the 70s is a case in point. After committing many heinous crimes, he slipped to the US and becomes an American Citizen and thought his case was forgotten. Thanks to two courageous Ethiopian women living in the city of Atlanta, he was apprehended, denaturalized (stripped of his citizenship), deported, and is now in jail in Ethiopia. There are several cases of fearless African and Third World immigrants in the US, who not only refuse to be intimidated by the oppressive regimes or systems in their homeland, but are bold enough in persecuting the persecutors and the torturers in their native lands.
Eritreans in this regard are not only way behind, some are complicit in the crimes of unprecedented barbarity taking place in the homeland. I am not talking about the pedophile rapists and Godless prostitutes of the fascist PFDJ supporters and its blasphemous worshippers. Enough is already said about the low-life, and more is coming everyday from all corners of the world. I am talking about those sensible, God fearing Eritreans, who dream and aspire to see their land liberated from these devilish bunch of gangsters in power in Asmara. When it comes to real action, many Eritrean enemies of the lawless oligarchy in Asmara are quite fearful, reluctant and even adamant in pursuing individual human rights violators and killers in their midst. Today, hundreds of Eritrean killers, torturers, people well known for their sadistic crimes, rapists and others are in our midst especially in the US and Europe. Many have asked and acquired asylum fraudulently. Since many Eritreans are silent and the US immigration authorities didn’t get any feedback from any Eritrean individual or group, it is easy for any Eritrean/PFDJ criminal to slip through the justice or asylum system of the United States. The Eritrean political and civic organizations in exile prefer to spend valuable time and energy in squabbling and wrangling for power and prestige instead of uniting their efforts in brining to justice Eritrean individuals who actively participated in any kind of immoral or brutal acts against our fellow country men and women in the motherland. Today, many diehard supporters and proponents of the inhuman Higdef Regime in Eritrea are among us here in the US. Almost all of them get their asylum deceitfully. There are cases of the dreaded musicians or Higdef propagandists, after getting political asylum and refuge albeit deceptively in the United States, immediately they begun to present musical performance and dance to the tunes of totalitarianism and tyranny right in front of our eyes! Imagine an Iranian musician political refugee/asylee living in the US presenting a musical show in the Iranian embassy organized events or to the Iranian regime officials. Or a North Korean asylum seeking artist singing in praise of the despotic leader of Kim Jong Il ? Just Imagine!
So far at least two Eritrean individuals are praiseworthy in this regard. These are, the great human rights activist Woizero Elsa Chyrum of the UK and the indefatigable gallant freedom and rights fighter Ato Rezene Habte (Hapte) here in the US. Mrs. Elsa fought for many years almost alone, in the case of human rights and brining to justice perpetrators of crime against humanity and other abusers who happen to live in the west. Many Eritreans followed with admiration and respect, Mrs. Elsa’s ceaseless struggle in brining to justice, Mr. Naizghi Kiflu, the notorious killer and member of the inner murder squad within the EPLF/PFDJ mafia cabal. Mr. Rezene Habte also is an exemplary person in this regard. From confronting and addressing the issues of the unprofessional and the pro PFDJ style of reporting in the VOA Tigrinya section program, (where many sensible Eritreans including this writer believe the VOA and its Tigrinya section journalists are clearly pro the PFDJ regime), to other issues of human rights violations including shameless acts of beatings and harassment by the PFDJ terrorist group and its coward parishioners (a case in point, is the recent acts of violence by pro PFDJ vigilantes against Eritrean independent journalist Tedros Menghistu in Houston, TX, and the still ongoing legal ramifications.) Mr. Rezene was one of the few Eritreans living in the US, who are courageous enough in confronting the evil PFDJ regime upfront for quite some time now. There are few other dedicated individual Eritreans and civic organizations in the world, which are bold enough in pursuing, disclosing and alerting officials of some criminal HIGDEF elements. But the majority are not only terrorized and intimidated by the ghosts of Issias and his henchmen, but they shamelessly prefer to be mute and deaf and live a sheepish monotonous life, full of fear and panic, some ten thousand miles away from the hellish state called Eritrea.
Today many Eritreans living in the West, not only don’t help and cooperate with each other, they really hate one another. A despicable air of hate and animosity can be found easily among Eritreans in almost any kind of meetings, venues and simple coffee conversations. The culture of helping each other and standing for your fellow country man is rapidly vanishing among Eritreans. The political parties, the thousands of associations, groups and personalities are full of grudge, spite and ill feeling towards their kin and fellow Eritrean. You can go to any Eritrean meeting or a group of Eritreans, and you will be dispirited and kind of dejected by what you see and what you feel. From fake smiles and pretentious laughs, to the terror and panic filled participants of any gathering of Eritreans, you will be soon choked by what is going on around you. Just go to any Eritrean held meetings or conventions organized by any one of the opposition groups. For some reason many Eritreans including the youth are still terrorized and many frankly speaking, look like some kind of holocaust or other tragic event survivors. They sit down meekly, like kindergarten kids, the whole duration of the meeting with deep sadness and horror in their face.
Sometime ago, I was invited to the meeting of some Cameroonians friends that was held to discuss the issues of political repression in their land. It was vibrant, full of energy, zeal and commitment that I was so energized and it left a lasting impression on me. Orator after orator was very vocal, precise and highly energized in condemning the dictatorship of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya. Participants were also full of vigor and power in expressing their feelings and stands. The political resolutions, the slogans, the pledge and devotions shown by the conventioneers, and the highly mesmerizing songs and dances, which illustrate life under the tyrannical rule of President Paul Biya, are really beyond words for me to express it here.
In contrast, meetings and conferences of Eritreans in the west and the US are lifeless, dull and so boring; it looks like the meeting was held by stroke survivors or some recently terminated employees of a firm or a kind of wake keeping at a funeral house. No appealing songs, no uplifting slogans very few charismatic speakers, half hearted and fearful audiences…the list is long. It is obvious that the current atmosphere of malice and ill will among Eritreans has a lot to do with the appalling ruling regime and conditions in the homeland. But all cannot be blamed solely on the Eritrean government. There are tons of things Eritreans in exile can do to help, support and stand for each other. We need more motivational, uplifting and powerful speakers, agitators and leaders. The culture of docility, utter submissiveness and viciousness toward one another should be eliminated from Eritrean’s culture and behavior if we really want to see change. The amount and depth of cruelty and heartlessness among Eritreans is quite alarming and depressing. I will give you one recent example.
Do you remember the news of an Eritrean “Journalist” in Kampala, Uganda, who was protesting daily for the cause of detained Eritrean journalists? The BBC had an extensive report about Mr. Yonas Embaye’s struggle and protest for the cause of detained journalists and the free press and his daily fight of survival in the squalid and poor neighborhoods of Kampala. According to BBC and other news agencies, Yonas Embaye was a journalist who fled the horrible and unbearable conditions in Eritrea and is looking to be settled to some Western countries like any other refugee in similar situation. When the news of Yonas Embaye’s ordeal and unusual form of protest (at least among Eritreans) was reported, many Eritreans begun to give their opinion and stance in this matter. The most important attitude or stance was that of fellow Eritrean journalists who were lucky enough to escape imminent torture and death in Eritrea, and now living in the Western democracies. It has to be mentioned that the writer of this article doesn’t know Mr. Yonas Embaye as a journalist or even as a person. He may have been a journalist or not. There are many journalists and media workers in Eritrea and it is impossible to know each one of them. He might have started his journalism career after we fled Eritrea. He might be one of the less known and almost invisible journalists while in Eritrea. There are literally many journalists and media professionals who are totally unknown as journalists even amongst their friends. There is also the question of who is a journalist? That has no clear answer so far. Is the person who was working as a transcriber in the ministry of information a journalist? What about the light and camera man of the MOI? Is the simple typist at “ENDA ZENA” a journalist? What about the archivist? The camera technician, the Computer specialist? Who is and who was really a journalist in Eritrea is highly debatable and contentious and is not the purpose of this article. In the case of Yonas Embaye, after his ordeal was broadcasted by the BBC and he asked asylum and protection from the UNHCR, you might expect to get at least sympathetic response from those who claim to be” journalists”. But to the contrary, one after the other, from those living in Canada and America, to those living “happily” in Sweden and Australia begun accusing the poor escapee from suffering and death, Yonas Embaye, as a liar, a thief, and a fraud and fervently opposed of him being given asylum. There is an association or cyber association rather, of Eritrean journalists called AEJE. Like many cyber groups and societies in this”ZEMENE HINFISHFISH” this society has no offices, known addresses, established P. O. BOX, contact telephone number and even a functioning website. It was formed by well meaning Eritrean Journalists living in the West and I commend those who work hard even to form this cyber group.
So, during the debate and discussions of the case of Yonas Embaye, almost all AEJE members denounced the destitute Eritrean viciously and without any kind of mercy or sympathy! They went all the way to write to the head of the UNHCR asking that Mr. Yonas Embaye should not be given an asylum. When one sees the ferociousness of their attack and denouncement of Yonas Embaye, one might take Yonas as serial killer, a murderer or a well known terrorist or a drug selling gangster. Those journalists or pseudo journalists who never utter a word about PFDJ singers and propagandists of the likes of Dashim Misghina and other’s fraudulent asylum case or Doctor Weldab Yisak’s (the butcher of University of Asmara) questionable refuge status and tenure at a US University, were very vocal and fervent in condemning and mutilating this poor soul Yonas, who miraculously escaped from one of the world’s worst countries and regimes in the planet, and was trying to improve his lot like all of Eritreans in exile. It is a fact that many Eritreans including the families of these so-called heartless journalists, use all kind of excuses and reasons to escape and ask for asylum in search of safe haven. Not all Eritrean asylum seekers present their case without a discrepancy or truthfulness. People use all kind of methods and means just to escape the inhuman and merciless Isaias Regime. For me, escaping Nazi Germany, North Korea, Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, the Derg’s Ethiopia or Enda Isaias’s Eritrea is all the same.
People like you and I are running form these ruthless beasts to escape with our lives and to live in liberty and without fear of being tortured or being killed in broad daylight! Who likes to be tortured? Who loves to be jailed or be a soldier indefinitely? Who likes to sleep with empty stomach? Yonas Embaye was running from such kind of misery, human tragedy and one of the worst times in Eritrea’s history. It doesn’t matter whether he is a plumber, a welder, a journalist or an artist. The most important thing is saving a life and as the holy quotation goes “To save one life is like saving the whole of humanity…..” But our so called journalists didn’t seem to care. They care more about their journalistic prestige and elite membership status of their group than saving a life. You can see their ill will, spite heartlessness from their writing and email messages. They didn’t even think about the consequences and repercussions their denouncement might have on the life of the person and his family. What if the UNHCR denied his case and he is deported to Eritrea? What if he is arrested by the Ugandan authorities on the basis of lying to authorities or fraudulent representation? Remember he is in Uganda not in Manitoba Canada! The AEJE members literally put this poor Eritrean’s life in grave and looming danger. Just imagine for a minute, Yonas being at the hands of the blood thirsty HIGDEFITES! The story is not over yet, and let’s look at the following.
There was a proposal by someone to raise funds and help the families of the jailed Eritrean independent or Government media journalists. Like millions of Eritreans under the Isaias regime, these families suffer from immensely financial difficulties or otherwise. Beside losing their loved ones , not knowing for certain about the fate or even the whereabouts of others, is a sad and unbearable situation for any human being. These families of arrested or murdered Eritrean journalists, in almost all the cases, are destitute and have no income or help, whatsoever. Some are wives (widows) with children, some are aging parents, brothers and sisters and in many cases the jailed journalists were the sole bread winners or caretakers for their families. So the arrest, disappearance or murder of their sole source of income has been a great damage to the families that were left behind and other dependents. This of course is of secondary importance to the families, as all of them want to see their husband, sons, brothers and uncles freed above anything else. To go back to my point, when the proposal of helping the families of the jailed journalists come to the fore, very few were enthusiastic and eager about it. Some gave all kind of excuses just not to give some few dollars , others brought the idea of forming a ministry of finance inside AEJE (I am not joking), others begun hiding, some others started arguing and brought totally unrelated subjects just for the sake of arguing. Still some others said that the families of so and so journalist have a brother in Germany or a cousin in England so we don’t need to help them. All these shameful excuses are clearly to run away form their responsibilities and avoid contributing a pittance to these unfortunate families of their former colleagues and friends. These so-called journalists or pseudo journalists, who were fortunate enough to escape torture, disappearance and possible death at the hands of the Higdef beasts, betrayed the families and children of their friends and comrades, who are languishing in gulags and dungeons of hell in Eritrea or who have perished and thrown in unmarked graves in that God forsaken piece of real state called Eritrea. Out of about 60 journalist living in exile in comfort, only three decided to help and contribute a little. Out of all these greedy and selfish so-called journalists, who prefer the life of gluttony and self-centrism, while the mother of Medhanie Haile lives in anguish and utter poverty and the children of Yususf Mohammed Ali go to bed with empty stomachs, only Ghezae Hagos Berhe from Canada, Meron Estifanos from Sweden and Yohannes Tesfamariam from Europe decided to help!! This may seem a chapter form a fiction or a storybook, but that is the fact. Eritreans hate each other so much that the simple art of kindness and generosity is extremely hard to find. Many Eritreans in the West prefer to spend money in some trivial things like expensive and showy clothing and jewelry and alcohol, of course, than helping the family members of murdered or disappeared Eritrean heroes or heroines.
I brought the above example of cruelty and insensitivity to one’s plight as an example, and not to single out and attack my fellow journalists, as there are many decent human beings and good people among them. But just as a reminder that every day in exile or in the homeland, there are tons of examples of nastiness and cold-bloodedness among Eritreans. Simply speaking, Eritreans are very mean and brutal to one another. Many Eritreans have very little room for kindness, benevolence and love in their crooked hearts.
The opposition groups, civic organizations, the ever mushrooming societies of all sorts and others never held a fundraiser or similar activity to help the loved ones of jailed Eritrean activists. All they do so far is, talk, talk and more talk. Few if any, tangible actions are taken in any Eritrean opposition held meetings, conferences conventions and public gatherings in this regard. I have never seen any kind of activity or movement to help or raise funds for the families of the jailed or murdered Eritrean activist or political prisoners. While the supporters and worshipers of the inhuman Asmara regime in the Western democracies like the US, contribute massively and coordinate their effort and work with zeal in their cause, the opposition block members are disunited and far behind and no one seems to care.
Every Eritrean’s life in exile is full of animosity, hatred toward one another, grudge, malice and an unhealthy level of enmity and suspicion. We have to face the facts. We have to be extra courageous enough to face the sad but true reality of our conditions. It is the greatest lie when one says I love my country and people, when he/she shows no mercy to those who are close and nearby. We need to soften our “rocky” hearts and our defiled minds and show love and respect to our fellow human beings. The untold crimes, betrayals, cruelty, greed, barbarism and heartlessness to one another are some of the reasons of our medieval existence as people in this age, it is a divine punishment. At least that is what I feel. The late Iranian political and spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini used to tell his followers, “Before you struggle to change the Shah, strive to change yourself.”
How true! Before we try to change the Asmara regime, we need to have a serious look at ourselves. Instead of shouting and complaining day and night, we need to ask ourselves many unanswered questions and be compassionate to one another. Any revolution begins in one’s self and you don’t have to be a “journalist” to know this fact. You just need to be a decent, sympathetic, forgiving and God-fearing human being and that is the greatest asset and education one can have in this world!