Negarit 225: Remembering The Unforgotten
What does it mean to remember a martyr when their images haunt us day in and day out? Do we really forget them that we need someone to remind us of them? And why is remembering a martyr so mechanical—why do we carry candles and shout empty slogans, suwaatna bkhbri yezekeru, and stuff like that? That is way beneath their value we claim to give our martyrs.
Would any respectful person be indifferent when their spouses, relatives, and friends are dishonored, and their names besmirched? Then, why do we just let it go when our martyrs are dishonored?
That is a redline. It’s a line that should never be crossed–at least not in the manner that has become acceptable in some quarters, despicable manners that are nowadays prevalent.
Life is valuable, and a life sacrificed to benefit others is more valuable. A nation that doesn’t honor those who gave their lives for it, like in the circles of the chaff of our society, is not only devoid of any level decency, but is also inhuman, inconsiderate, and cruel.
We have to assess the common ways that we follow to remember our martyrs: parades, slogans, and bravadoes–appropriating their heroism for ourselves, which is the epitome of opportunism. Martyrs had a cause for which they gave their lives, like those who lost limbs and sustained grave physical injuries. How many handicapped of today were healthy sportsmen, workers, and fine students with the prospects of a bright future ahead of them, are now relegated to a life on wheelchairs and others with artificial limbs, if they are lucky to have that at all? All of that was foe a goal. A worthy goal of making life better for their people. And we are faced with a difficult question that needs an honest answer. Did we achieve the goals for which they gave their lives?
No one needs an assistance to answer that question; I will not bore you with repetitive rhetoric and emotional speech. I prefer to tell you honestly: we haven’t achieved many aspects of the goal of our struggle. Of course, you know the struggle was not to exchange one dictator with another, but we have replaced a foreign occupier with local tyranny.
I didn’t have a slightest doubt that Eritreans will enjoy much of the goals of the struggle but unfortunately, much of it not resolved yet. Not only unresolved or unachieved, but they are systematically being erased from the nation’s memory. Justice was the demand and main goal of our struggle; the other goals were listed beneath it. Yet, 33 years after the independence of Eritrea, there is an unjust system in place. Worse, we have many citizens who do not understand the concept of justice. We do not have a peaceful nation. The political situation is suffocating. Marginalization is at its height. Eritrea is a brutal police state.
That has to end, only then can the people remember the martyrs properly… not celebrate their sacrifices in events designed as propaganda to promote the ruling party and to help it tighten the grip of the power it usurped. Instead, Eritreans need to remember the martyrs and honor them by completing the many neglected aspects of the mission they set out to achieve. Until then, Eritreans will remain burdened by a feeling of guilt for not carrying out the promises of their martyrs. And that is why the memory of the martyrs should be etched in everyone’s mind. That painful memory is needed to discomfort and remind the people of their unfinished job. Only then can we feel relieved that we haven’t betrayed them or betrayed their goals.
On this occasion, I would like to present to you a poem I wrote in memory of my martyred friend, Bashir Neberay whom I didn’t forget for a day since in 1977 when he fell on the hills of Barentu. It’s a poem that my brother Ahmed Abdulrahim made into a song. In it, I expressed the personal the pain, and naughty adventures we had in our school days. The poem is an embodiment of the respect and sense of loss that many who lost a person they love to the liberation war. Unfortunately, I can’t properly describe the feeling of parents who lost their children, of siblings who lost brothers and sisters, and of friends who lost their friends. It’s dedicated to all the martyrs on behalf of all citizens who share a similar memory with me; I know the nation is full of them. Please listen and contemplate on the human aspects of losing a dear one for martyrdom and see the vision they fell for is betrayed or forgotten. Remember the long list of names of Eritrean martyrs,