Ramadan Reflections (Part 4 & 5)
What follow are the last two portions (4 & 5) of the five part series that Omar Jabir wrote during the month of Ramadan. The series appeared on Alnahda1.8.com during the months of August and September, 2009; Awate.com has translated all five parts to English believing it would serve a wider audience. Notes that appear in brackets [ ] and headings were added by awate.com for ease of reading and understanding.
Ramadan reflections: Touring the Websites (4 of 5)
Omar Jabir, Sep 6, 2009
Sometimes when I browse Eritrean websites, I read some issues that stop me and, without any previous preparation, I decide to tackle it for the service of the readers in an attempt to clarify what might be confusing or concealed to some.
The first issue: a new reading of history.
The Eritrean mind tries to hold on to the past and sees it as a golden era—and truly, that view is shared by [all] oppressed and wronged people who lost their fortunes in the present and find that the road to the future is shut on their faces!
What is the occasion for such topic? It is a question raised by some people: Did what we achieve—independence—deserve what we sacrificed and the prices that we paid for?
It is clear from the wording of the question that the answer is .. NO!
Oh gentlemen, what is in your past that you are proud of?
An Eritrean was not able to say that he is an Eritrean … But he had to say he is an Ethiopian, to the extent that some Muslim Eritreans were hiding their religion to get a job.
Did Muslims deserve all the suffering that they went through by the Quraish [The prophet’s tribe]? Did Christ deserve to be crucified (according to the doctrine of his followers) or is it the fate of prophets?
What caught my attention is the defense that Brother Abdul Rahman AlSayed put foreword in order to reach a conclusion, that, peaceful struggle is the way … and if we had followed the approach of the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), today [we would have been] in a better shape!(awate.com August 2009)
These are my observations on brother Abdul Rahman’s reading of history:
Firstly, he pointed to the Movement and said: [ELM-1958-1965]
Where did he come from with this reference? The ELM was founded in 1958 and was officially dissolved by its chairman and founder (Mohammed Said Naud) in 1976 when he announced his joining of the Eritrean Popular Front. Did the writer choose 1965 since it is the year in which the Eritrean Liberation Front [ELF] eliminated the ELM’s military wing?
Secondly, the author said that the movement had absorbed all the components of the Eritrea people: regions, territories and religions. [That claim] is not correct [since] I was a member [of ELM] in 1961 and I know all its leaders in Port Sudan … it was less extensive and less representative of the components of the people [compared to] the founding leaders of the ELF.
Thirdly, the ELM didn’t believe in a peaceful approach:
If its documents and its agitation programs, called to recruit police (Eritrean police) which was the most powerful military organization in the country … the goal was to carry out a military coup backed by a popular uprising! If that was not violence what do you think violence is?
It was heralding through its cadres that the mountains were full of weapons and among these [cadres] was Mr. Omar Haj Idris—may God grant him longevity—who carried a machinegun which he showed to the movement’s cells and he was actually arrested.
In 1965 the movement armed and dispatched a group of combatants to the field to start an armed struggle! Why did it wait until 1965 [to do so]?
Maybe it had done so to compete against the ELF in a direction and the orientation it did believe in or it was not willing to do anything since its inception but it was in reaction to the actions of others … The result was a military confrontation, the spark that burned the valleys after 1971.
Many Eritrean youth were arrested, accused of being members of the ELM, and some were executed [by the Ethiopian occupational government]… If that was not violence, what is?
From the outset, the liberation movement faced a problem in reconciling between its slogans and their application … between what it advocates for in its literature and between what it prepares for and provides on the ground.
A while ago I read the obituary written by Mr. Mohamed Said Naud for the late Mohammad Hassan Osman Mahmoud, a founding member of the ELM… may God’s mercy be on his soul.
What attracted my attention was the date of birth [of the deceased] which was appended to the obituary: 1944
How do we understand that a young boy, fourteen years old, thought, planned and became a member of the leadership of a national movement? Surprisingly, Mr. Naud himself mentioned in his book, about the ELM, that he was born in 1938, meaning that, then, he was nineteen years old!
Either there is an error in those numbers or the issue needs to be researched and scrutinized.
And this is my message to brother AbdulRahman—or to CIDRiE—which has within its ranks hardworking young activists who strive to get to the truth: dispatch an envoy to Moscow to research the archives (which are now open after they have been classified for fifty years) of the former Soviet Communist Party, and read in the chapter related to the relationship with the Communist Party of Sudan during the 1957 to 1958 and particularly correspondences on Eritrea. There you would either find evidence that would help you in the proper reading of contemporary Eritrean history or you will find an explanation and confirmation for your established convictions which are a result of experiences, repetition and legacy!
Lastly, I read a comment by brother Nusreddin AlJeberti on awate.com regarding what I wrote about the Jeberti. First, I am grateful to brother Nusreddin for his kind words and I say to him that in Eritrea, there are no insiders and outsiders; we are all immigrants who either came through the sea or through the valleys or through the mountains… even the Kunama whom we consider the oldest settlers have migrated from the Nile Basin. Nobody can overbid another and [no one] owns an inch more than the other.
I didn’t write a specialized study about the migration of the Jeberti, that is another subject…at any rate, I apologize if what I wrote has caused confusion or misunderstanding.
Happy new year
Note: Many thanks to brother Mustafa Babekir from the sisterly Sudanese community who graciously printed these Ramadan series—thanks and appreciation to him and I pray to God to reward him on my behalf.
Ramadan Reflections: Pen Names (5 of 5)
Omar Jabir, Sept. 9, 2009
The pen name phenomenon has spread in the Eritrean websites to the point that a reader does not know those he reads—is it Tom Or Harry, a ghost or a real person.
There are three types of people who use pen names, each with his own reason:
First Category: Those who live in the Arab countries and need the services of the Eritrean embassies and at the same time want to exercise their right in expressing their opinions without being subjected to the harassment or chasing by the regime.
That is their natural right and it is a position that is well understood and appreciated, and no one should ask of anyone to throw himself into trouble.
Second Category: after independence, everyone was in a state of polarization, and writing, free and neutral, was not widespread or understandable. Writers would be classified according to their affiliations and association with this or that organization—and the culture of objective reading was not established yet—it was either with us or against us?
As soon as a reader reads the author’s name, he rejects the message, therefore, the writer changes his name and begins to dialogue with his readers incognito. That was actually a phenomena with its own necessities—and the most famous pen name was that of our friend Jabir Saeed, who managed to persevere and continued to communicate until he made readers follow him and make him accountable based on what he writes and not based on his affiliation, background or connections. Also, his knowledge about the affairs of the society, its culture and traditions enabled him to dialogue with all, in addition to his memory which Mahmoud Lobinet characterized as photographic.
Third Category: This category’s target is to float an idea or a project but they are not confident of the success of their ideas or projects and whether the people would accept it or not. In other words, this category floats test balloons, and based on the reactions, the calculate and adopt certain positions. Surprisingly, this category includes cadres and leaders of the opposition parties as well as cadres and the leadership of the PFDJ!
May Allah curse dictatorships—had we been blessed with democracy, and if our country had the freedom of opinion and expression, we would not have the need to hide and change our names.
Naud Books: I received a kind letter from brother Mahmoud Naud explaining the tasks that are carried out by the website. Indeed, checking and reading the website shows that he is carrying a noble task and his effort are commendable. There are two tasks being carried out by the website:
1. Documentation: collection, categorization and recording of all Arabic releases on Eritrea, literature, history and social issues. Documentation is an arduous task and requires a scientific approach, modern means of communication and networking with centers of research and publishing houses—all of that is beyond the capacity of an individual—therefore, supporting him and standing beside him, and provide him with all the references and documents that he needs is the duty of every Eritreans intellectuals.
2. Registration of the Arabic language: in a time of increased campaigns by the Eritrean regime and its policies aiming to isolate the Arabic language in Eritrea, and isolating the Eritrean people from their surroundings, in this despicable time, what Naud Books is doing is considered a resistance to that approach and it is an effort to save the heritage so that future generations would find what quenches their thirst and fills their needs of Arabic production.
The elephant and the blind persons
At the invitation of a friend we met at the breakfast table on one Ramadan evening; and after breakfast and Taraweeh prayers, all relaxed to chat and exchange anecdotes—but what would prevent the concerns, the how’s of our country [from coming up]? The talk began on the right track because almost all were opponents of the regime except an individual who was justifying and defending the regime while his friends kept calling him Drummer!
Someone said: my brothers, this regime is a dictatorship of an individual who does not allow anyone to debate, let alone to express his opinion!
Drummer said: Oh friends, fear God… you see Gaddafi who has been sitting on the throne for more than forty years without elections and now he has become the President of Africa and you did not find but this poor [man Isaias] in Eritrea? And the rest of Africa—even those that have pretend elections… where the result is known in advance! Yes, he is a dictator, but he is just!
Someone else said: O brothers, why evade telling the truth, why don’t we put our hands on the wound? It is a sectarian regime, against Muslims and it supports and helps Christians?
The Drummer said: May God forgive you… how could you say that when he has isolated the Patriarch of the largest church—the Orthodox—who is under house arrest—he prevented an entire Christian sect from performing its rituals—the Jehova Witnesses—while his relationship with the Muslim Mufti and his deputy is like “milk of honey!”
A third person said: it is neither… it’s a complete cultural hegemony and domination by the Tigrigna group and its monopoly of power and resources.
The Drummer said: What about the sons of the [Tigrigna] who are residing in prisons for years and others who were executed and still others who fled outside the country?
When I saw that the debate will extend and be tense, everyone sticking to his views, I said: I am afraid what happened to the blind and the elephant would apply to you.
A group of blind people were asked to describe an elephant. .. Each of them described the part of the elephant they touched with their hand … When they asked the referee who rightly described the elephant, he said to them: Not anyone of you individually, but all of your descriptions put together describes the elephant!?
The is a subject of episodes that I will write after Ramadan, God willing: The Eritrean regime—its characteristics and its nature; how did it reach to where it is now and where is it heading.
Happy New Year