When You Are Down…

To the unaware, the horrible stories about life in Eritrea would seem mere exaggerations; those who have no idea about the cruelty of the PFDJ rule would be tempted to brush it off.  But the stories are just the tip of a huge pile of more harrowing tales.

A man I know had a relative held hostage in Sinai and he has been collecting money to pay the ransom. When I asked him why he veiled that information from me; he was very disturbed that I know about it. He had a reason: “The family decided to avoid media attention.” That was half-true.

I found out that he and his relatives collected and paid $35,000 to the captors to release the young man. Incidentally, they transferred the ransom money to a person who lives in Asmara and facilitates such transactions under the supposedly eagle eyes of the PFDJ.

It is understandable why they kept the incident secret until the hostage is freed (half the truth); but the ex-hostage is now safe and lives in Europe.

Here is the second half (the lie). Two of the relatives expressed their worries that if word goes out, “It will embarrass our government and it is shameful for Eritrea.” They pressured the other relatives to keep everything secret. I urged and encouraged the man to talk to no avail.

The broker of the deal in Asmara certainly shaved his commission off the transferred the money. He might not have paid the 2% tax to the regime; probably the PFDJ has a controlling share of the illicit trade that the broker manages. Right now, he is probably closing another such deal sitting on a sidewalk cafe in Asmara and devouring a beer.

Many Eritreans have paid ransom money; most of them live in Europe and America, and they are quite. Only a minuscule number have shared the vital information with police authorities and relevant entities. Eritreans who hide the identities of the contacts and brokers are aiding and abetting the criminals. Their quietness helps the criminals flourish.

Importance of Diaries

During the years that proceeded WWII, the Jews were at their weakest. They were down. They were hunted door to door, their properties open for anyone to grab, their lives wasted at whim, and their labor forcefully extracted.

Last week I watched a 2010 movie, The Diaries Of Anne Frank. It is an adaptation of a book (itself a translation from the Dutch original), entitled, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. There are several movie adaptations of the book, but I think the 2010 movie is probably the best, certainly better than the 1980 version.

I discovered that the book is a mandatory reading at some American schools and I encourage everyone to either to watch the movie or read the book. Doing both is even better. You can find the translation of the book in many languages.

I didn’t find any new information in the movie about the barbarity of the Nazis; humanity already knows enough about it. What attracted my attention is the fact that Eritreans do not have a culture of writing diaries and memoirs. We have a lot to tell, but our contribution in documenting our experiences is abysmally embarrassing.

When Anne Frank and her family were hiding from the Nazis, the only connection they had to the outside world was a radio broadcast from the UK.  The broadcasted messages urged Jews to write diaries; that is what Anne Frank did. She left behind an amazing document of great historical and literary significance.

Anne Frank, her family (with the exception of her father), and those who lived in the apartment with her, died in the Nazi concentration camps. But the casual diary the young girl left immortalized their stories. The movies that I watched is a 2010 production, almost seventy years after the diaries was written. Almost seventy years after Anne Frank died. It is in this light that I bring the topic today.

Now let us imagine our future. An Eritrean student who will be born in 2032 goes to college in 2050. He or she visits the library (Yes, libraries will still be around in 2050, with more electronic gadgets) to write his thesis on what his great-grandfather (doing slave labor in the nineties) or his grandfather (who was in Sawa, or doing slave labor somewhere in Eritrea in 2013) went through. What do you think the student will find? A detailed description of events in Eritrea like that of Anne Frank? Very little. One-liners that go for news and opinion on social media? Nope. No professor will accept that. Unfortunately, our student of the future will not find much.

My point: we need to develop the habit of writing diaries, articles, blogs, etc.

I know that some people have a lot to say; but they are intimidated by public writing. Internet forums and social media, if used properly, are good training and practicing ground for young and novice writers. They can develop their own voice and style and learn how to engage the public… and at the same time enrich the Eritrean literature.

Literature cannot be built with one-liners just as history cannot be written in the form of disconnected crosswords puzzle. This is important because the selective cooking of Eritrean history in the PFDJ kitchen has badly damaged our nation. This should not be repeated in the future. We do not want future Eritreans to depend on stitched forgeries to learn their history, just like what is happening right now to the gullible. The onslaught is evident. Some people are vomiting their prejudices and creating a crafted history to fit their narrow interests and primordial prejudices. And they are good at writing the end of the story without bothering about its beginning. And…

When Eritrea is down….

When it is down, every wicked person runs with a rusty knife to skin it alive. When you are down…even the coward of cowards wields a knife. As the Tigrinya saying goes, Z’wedeqe B’Eray,  kara y’bezhho. A fallen bull attracts more knives; stubbing and slicing anything becomes a favorite pastime. And that is why we observe a lot of knife wielding. But Eritreans have been there; that stubborn bull never dies. It is a phoenix. It will rise again.

Thanks to the PFDJ, our country has acquired a bad image. Its people are humiliated. They are impoverished. They are intimidated, materially incapacitated, morally damaged. Our self-esteem is at risk. We have become a joke of those who are no better than we are. We have become a laughing stock of the political lepers. Gone are the days when we were known as bold and resilient people; now we are left only with good feet to flee our country. Our people have become the goose that lays golden eggs for all sorts of criminals, from Eritrea, through Sudan to Sinai and beyond.

We are down because of the PFDJ betrayed us. Now the wicked are gloating at our miseries. Gleefully enjoying our sufferings. Looking at us with contempt, a smirk in their faces. We have been there. We have been there and we sprung back with vengeance. Undoubtedly, the sneering lots will learn a lesson. When we are down, we celebrate even the smallest achievements. That is how we begin and that is how we regain our bold nature. But it would be nice if the ENCDC regains some of it, for a change.

Arbi Harnnet

When we are down, projects like Arbi Harenet reminds us that the bull is not yet down. It is simply having a headache. It is rising again. It has firmly planted three hooves in the ground; the fourth will be up anytime; and its horns are as sharp as ever!

We should direct our focus to the cities, town and streets of Eritrea. The rest of the forces are catalysts that should help; what matters is what happens inside Eritrea. The signs are clear for those who want to see; the pessimists are unable to see anything uplifting, anything inspiring, or anything emboldening. They do not even see the half-empty glass; they see the stained, dirty coaster on which the glass sits.

Yes. A fallen bull invites knives, a camel too. Amazingly, a camel sits only when you lightly hit its knees with a stick or a rope. But remember, the Eritrean camel is capable of biting off anything that crosses the line. Eritreans have a line and they will keep it with determination. Those who have given up on Eritrea, please stick to your adopted identities and save the beleaguered Eritreans your condescension and your paternalist gestures.

Fighting the PFDJ Komsomol

The derg effectively used Kebele structure to control the life of the population: distribution of ration, allocation of housing, policing, and many other activities. But that is not why the Derg found it effective. The derg structured Kebele as a security devise with a focus on spying, and protecting the power and authority of the regime.

The PFDJ has not come up with anything new. Why should it when it can inherit the effective derg apparatus that serves the purpose? In fact, the PFDJ reorganized kebele in a stricter form and energized it. It gave it a new impetus of tyrannical powers. Now kebele controls the lives of the people more than it did during the derg era. The effective derg structure is subduing the resolve of Eritreans. It has rendered them docile.

The derg did not create kebele as many think. It copied it from the Soviets system. In fact, the translation of The Soviet Union would be The Kebele Union. Soviet means Kebele. Gaddafi’s Libya also had its own copy of the Soviets, Ljjan Shaabiya, popular committees.

The PFDJ also copied another system from the Soviet Union: the YPFDJ. The ruling communist party of the Soviet Union had a youth branch called Komsomol; the structure and organizational level of the YPFDJ within the ruling party, is identical to the Komsomol (except the Soviet youth limited membership to the 14-28 age group.) It is also similar to the sister entity of the Komosmol, The Communist Youth League of China.

It is ironic that most information that I get about the YPFDJ (pictures of meetings, festivals and other events) is courtesy of people opposed to the PFDJ. They obsessively copy everything the YPFDJ publishes and paste it for the rest of us to see. Sometimes they add silly comments and stale jokes to the copied contents. Worst, they add ugly layman Photoshop rendering of the images and their amateurish alteration. If one is tempted to do that, I suggest thinking about how to better present an intelligent rebuttal or expose. Most of the Photoshop rendering out there actually invites derision and ridicule. I am sure you can come with tons of such examples on facebook; including a photoshopped image of a cloud made to look like a horse. Then someone posts it with a comment: “Say Subhan Allah and Like or share it.” And we are supposed to marvel at a fake image! I wish people stopped posting annoying images and postings.

Embarking on a fight against the PFDJ requires well thought of messages. For example: I have seen mediocre images where the faces of people are pasted on the head of monkeys. I have seen un-proportionally super-super sized heads attached to small bodies. I have seen so many ugly and mediocre rendering that damages the image of the resistance. There are also many copyright violation, or the willful posting and altering of content without mentioning their sources, even as a courtesy…. I urge those who do not have artistic skills to stay away from publishing their mediocre images and instead spend their time getting art classes (or Photoshop lessons). Stick to what you do best.

Notwithstanding the annoyance of what I mentioned above, I am sure the intentions are good. Unfortunately those who post such items think they are fighting the PFDJ and its satellites. They are not. In fact they are inviting apathy to what the anti-tyranny camp does. Nothing comes from a post or an image that reflects immaturity. It weakens the resistance in general and makes it look an undertaking by middle school students. Stick to what you love with passion and improve on it. If you are not skilled on something, keep away from it.


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