“The years roll by” may have become a catch phrase we repeat very often in our nation’s predicament – but literally, the years are indeed rolling by. How fast they come and go is even hardly noticeable these days.
Between jobs, schools, holiday events, vacations and family life in general with all its fun memories, its pleasures, its ups and downs – typical mundane chores which take up chunks of time as life is lived to the fullest (as it should be) – it is hard to notice time flying by.
But there is a catch here for us Eritreans; the above assertion comes with a caveat – it can only hold true depending on where one is actually domiciled. The further the winds carry you away from the hell-hole Eritrea has become, the better your chances of spending quality time, which always seems to be short by the way – very short. Thus, time flies by and obviously, the years roll by.
I am afraid the same couldn’t be said about those left behind in Eritrea or those Eritreans quarantined in squalid and disease-infested refugee camps in the neighbouring countries and far beyond. Time is agonizingly slow. With every click of a second, it is more of the same – agonizing misery with no respite, as though it is on a grudging standstill.
So at times like these as the years roll by unnoticed, a little reflection on the plight of those less fortunate to be HGDEF’s direct victims could go a long way. It could help galvanize people towards action – any action that could help alleviate their suffering.
So when you have one of those warm family get-togethers where a full house is abuzz with joy and laughter – with plenty to eat and drink and plenty to do and talk about for the young and old alike, just take a moment – a few seconds at the most – close your eyes and reflect on the following:
Imagine the pain and deprivation a person locked up in one of HGDEF’s many underground dungeons would feel in every second – yes every single second of incarceration under appalling conditions. Imagine the mental torture, the torment.
Compare that warm, joyous and beautiful ambience which surrounds you to the morbid fate of HGDEF’s victims. Prisoners, their families and friends, refugees old and new – all alike, think of them all for a moment.
For you, giving a great big hug to a child or a grand-child is only an arm’s reach away. You don’t even have to leave your seat – those clichéd calls of “n’Ei eske shikoreena, n’Aa eske anta ma’ar or even anta loqmatz (for the mischievous one)” would do.
For those languishing in HGDEF’s dungeons though it is a totally different story. If given a choice, they would probably give their lives for a glimpse of their loved ones, but all they could get is pitch-black emptiness, confined between bare concrete walls which they couldn’t even see.
The only things they cling to are distant memories of how sweet and graceful life used to be with their loved ones around them. But with the passage of time, even those memories start to fade away. The occasional subdued chuckles start to disappear giving way to silent tears in the dark – a life no one would wish even on their worst enemies, let alone on their fellow citizens who committed no crimes whatsoever.
As a former prisoner once put it “At first, you start to talk to yourself – you struggle to defy the games your memory starts to play with you. How could you forget that name, or that date or that place – how dare you? You recite this verse or that prayer, or you keep humming that old melody – but overtime, the monotonous tone actually pains you more that it helps. You bang the wall in anger and frustration – but even that hurts – because before you could even notice, your bones and muscles have grown very weak.”
Calendars in on themselves are nothing more than pure abstracts. Just imaginary blocks of time in space, if you will. It is life in general and human life in particular with all its facets that punctuate them, giving them meaning and essence.
Thus, to bricks and mortar (some refer to them as art deco), calendars or even time in general are totally irrelevant. They don’t mean a hoot as they have no essence nor can they be used as points of reference.
Having said that, here are some of the most important questions we need to ask:
How about for those languishing in HGDEF’s dungeons, does time have any relevance?
What does the advent of a New Year, say 2013 mean to these forgotten prisoners? How would this New Year compare to 2012, 2011, 2010…..2001..1993,1992 etc? What would the first dawn of 2013 mean to, say somebody who spent 15 years in an underground hole or in a container – one who probably lost count of time years ago?
I am more inclined to believe, as I am sure many folks do, that to these poor victims, time has no relevance whatsoever with the exception of two things – the first, mental torture and the second, faint hope.
As the years roll by, they would lament what they missed most – the birthdays for their children, the graduation ceremonies, the weddings or just watching them grow. They would wonder of their loved ones’ fates – if they left town or if they too ended up in the dungeons or ended up being refugees. They would wonder if their elderly folks are still alive or if they have passed away, grief-stricken and before even getting a chance to hold hands and say goodbye.
All in all – the passage of time, the rolling of the years so to speak, would mean nothing to these poor folks but mental torture – absolute mental torture of the worst kind which could break any human.
As for the hope – the faint hope that these victims have is not hinged on HGDEF having a change of heart. They may be helpless victims but they are no fools – and the last thing they would expect is for the devil to have a heart – a human heart, that is. They have learned this firsthand through the physical and mental tortures they went through for years.
Their faint hope is rather pinned on us, their brothers and sisters, their sons and daughters, their community and their people in general – it is pinned on us taking action, any action that would immediately destroy the HGDEF regime, head first.
All it takes is only a few moments of reflections.
Think of the young mother who was baited by the thug Girma Asmerom only to be whisked away from the airport to end up in the dungeons. Think of her kids, flower bouquets in hand, waiting anxiously to give mum a hug and see the gifts she might have brought with her from “Amerika”. Think of their mental anguish – mother and kids alike.
Think of the young Muslim teachers – learned young men who were the pride of their communities and who were the most apolitical people you can think of – thrown in the dungeons for nothing else other than their faith. Think of those they left behind.
Think of those who broke away from HGDEF itself and challenged it to admit its failures and to change. As insiders, they knew HGDEF’s inner workings very well and yet, they decided to face it un-armed because they counted on the full wrath HGDEF would face from the public and the rest of the establishment if it failed to comply. Think of the utter failure these folks feel know, not of their own actions but rather of the reactions they counted on which never came. Think of their pain – if they are still alive, that is.
Happy New Year