Arabic In Eritrea : Its History and Its Reality (III)

Arabic language: the Popular Front [PFDJ] confirms that the Arabic language in Eritrea [was] imposed by the English and [it is] the language of Rashayidah.


Is it possible to reach this level of ignorance of history, or it is a determination to be fraudulent and deny rights because of political blindness and mental deafness that afflicts those leaders?

Britain entered Eritrea in 1941; and the Rashayidah arrived in Eritrea at the end of the eighteenth century!


Let us see a brief history of the relations between Eritrea and the Arabs:  


  1. Between 700-100 BC, after the collapse of the Ma’areb Dam, Yemeni tribes belonging to the Habeshat and Al Agaa’ez migrated through Bab Al-Mandeb and Dahlak Islands.


  2. Before the Islamic era, the people from the Arab Peninsula were traveling to trade with the port of Adulis in the Eritrean coast.


  3. The introduction of Islam and the spread of the Arabic language: The [Arab] Umayyad State occupied the Dahlak Islands in the eighth century AD and then an Islamic Emirate was established in the Dahlak archipelago and Massawa, it was associated with the Abbasid caliphate.


  4. In 1865, Egyptian armies occupied Massawa and then expanded to the Keren, Senhit, area. That was done based on an agreement with the Turkish caliphate—and during that period the documents of the state were written, collected and preserved in Arabic (property ownership documents; marriage contracts; death certificates; and judiciary papers). I don’t know whether those documents exist or not?


  5. When the Portuguese came to the costal areas of Eritrea in 1550, they had brought along an interpreter from the North African region who spoke Arabic to communicate with the [local] population—there were no Rashayda then!


  6. When the Italians occupied Eritrea in 1890, they communicated with the population through Arabic publications or through Arabic interpreters; they even minted coins with Arabic inscription for Eritrea.


  7. After its formation, the Association of Hub Al Watan [Mahber Figri Hager] it spread national education in 1937, and religious institutions flourished.


  8. In the period of self-determination, 1942-1952, Arabic community schools and the Arabic press flourished; and the migration of Eritrean students [for higher education] to Sudan, Al-Azhar began.


  9. During the period of the revolution, hundreds of Eritrean students in various fields of science and literature graduated through the [the revolution’s] missions, from the Arab countries.


  10. After the independence of Eritrea, hundreds of students graduated from the Sudan and the Arab countries and there was a huge asset of a generation nourished by Arab culture and modern science; there also appeared the creativity of writers and artists—be it in poetry or writing of novels.

 After all of that, you say it is a language of the Rashaydah. May God forgive you.


Lately, has initiated a regional and international campaign to disseminate the Arabic language in Eritrea! It’s an initiative that reflects good intentions—since there is no international or regional organization that can impose educational curricula on another country—particularly in Eritrea—because there is a blind and deaf system there, and the solution is in changing the system. Until then, we have to follow a strategy of disseminating and reaffirming the Arabic language:



  • Within the Eritrean communities in the Diaspora: teaching the Arabic language in private schools in communities as well as the teaching of Eritrean history.
  •  At home and in occasions: the use of Arabic language so that the new generation grows listening to the Arabic language.
  • Arabic Paltak Rooms can play a positive role.
  • While retaining [our] heritage and developing it, using Arabic in songs is considered a quick and effective means to disseminate [the Arabic language] and to reach our people inside [Eritrea] who are deprived of reading.



On this occasion, a number of Arabic poems by the artist Hussein Mohammad Ali was presented, I hope it sees the light soon.


Gathering heritage and literary production and presenting it to the reader: the initiative of brother Mohammed Abubaker—The Sound of the Mirrors—is a step towards documenting and consolidating the Arabic language.


In addition, Nawud Books website has its role in contributing on this direction. It is surprising, the cause of the partners: how do they want to deprive us of our chosen language to understand our religion and lives? 


[Non-factual statement regarding the use of Arabic in Los Angels omitted with the knowledge of the writer]


Australia allows Arabic speakers to sit in the secondary school certificate examination to improve and raise their grades!


In Eritrea, they talk of floating the language! That means the sinking of all languages while Tigrigna remains alone to swim because it is equipped with a survive vest.


May God come to the rescue of the Eritrean people.

Omar Jabir, has been a part of the Eritrean movement for independence and democratization since he was 15. As a member of the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM/Haraka/Mahber Showate), and later the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF),  where he was instrumental in the formation of the General Union of Eritrean Students (GUES), and his eventual return to Eritrea following independence in 1991, and re-exile,  Omar Jabir’s journey has been as contoured as that of Eritrea’s trek for self-actualization. Now residing in Australia, Omar Jabir is a respected presence in Eritrean websites that cater to Arabic-reading audiences. His articles are often educational, insightful and timely. The article which follows is the third of 5 articles addresse the issue of Arabic language and the culture of attempting to exclude it from the Eritrea reality. The series appeared on on August 31, 2009 on, is translating it to English believing it would serve a wider audience. Notes that appear in brackets [ ], and headings were added by for ease of reading and understanding.


Related Posts