Celebrating International women day in London
Celebrating International women day in London date 20/03/2016 By Petros Tesfagiorgis Women are fighting and emerging for centuries of being held down. It has been a difficult battle which is still not complete. During the 30 years
Celebrating International women day in London date 20/03/2016
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
Women are fighting and emerging for centuries of being held down. It has been a difficult battle which is still not complete. During the 30 years of armed struggle the question of equality of women was taken very seriously. It was believed and repeatedly campaigned that there will be no liberation of Eritrea without the participation of women.
1/3 of the EPLF combatants were women. (1)They have participated in many activities hitherto dominated by men. As mechanics they worked in garages, as machine tool operators in factories (2) and as drivers of Lorries and land cruiser crisscrossed the ragged terrain of the Sahel Mountain, popularly known as challenge roads. (Mrs Nebiat standing on the left of the veteran leader Aboy Woldeab Woldemariam was in charge of driving guests to the EPLF 2nd and unity conference in 1987 the other six work in different activities).(3)
The participation of women in health care was significant. They worked as doctors and nurses in the chain of underground hospitals. The only expert on treating bullet ridden faces was a women Doctor named Lainesh, the wife of Dr Asefaw Tekeste – today the chairman of the opposition organisation in exile “Medrick”. She used to mend broken jaws and bullet hit faces. Her amazing contribution is that she had trained many young women fighters that enabled them to fix bullet ridden faces of many fighters. She was a graduated from a university in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria. The women health workers had easy access to the tents of the Nomad women to help in child birth and train the local midwives. They were called bare foot doctors as they follow the movement of the nomads on foot with their heavy kit on their back. After independence some fighters served as judges and governors etc but it was short lived.
The slogan widely used was “emancipation of women through participation”. In UK the mass association has artistically designed poster of the slogan. The liberation of women campaign was reflected in paintings and in songs. Many painting artists where evolved during the struggle e.g. the famous painter Michael Adonai – now living in exile. One moving song was titled “Goodbye Kitchen life” ድሐን ኩኒ ክሽነ. It exposed the Eritrean patriarchal society that relegated women to the kitchen (domestic work) and raising the children. This song was sang by one of EPLF famous female singer, Berikti “the Tank”. Member of EPLF cultural troupe. Sad to say one of her singer colleague Senait Debesai together with 3 other fighters and mothers – Aster Yohannes, Aster Fitzehasion, Miriam Hagos are languishing in prison for more than 15 years. There was another one Ruth Simon who came to my attention recently because of an appeal circulated for signature to the president to release her.
Ruth is fluent in French and in the liberated base area/ Sahel/ she was assigned in the production of short films including the famous film “Our revolution “Sawrana” working under the French revolutionary Christian Sabatier (Hillal) who became an internationalist member of EPLF, in charge of EPLF film production. Her sister, Hanna Simon- is the current Eritrean Ambassador in France. A typical example of the destruction of the fabric of Eritrean society. Hanna is living a good life in France while her sister is languishing in prison.
The women’s imprisonment and all prisoners of conscience for over 15 years now symbolize the inhumanity and recklessness of the Eritrean Government. Today there are more than 10,000 prisoners of conscience who were never charged. Among them is an Eritrean war-hero Captain Habtezion Hadgu, head of the Eritrean young air force. With the invasion of Badme by Eritrean troops on August 8, 1998 the Ethio-Eritrean war started. On August 13 the Ethiopian parliament declared war on Eritrea. At that time Habtezion ordered all the fliers not to report to the base and stay at home and wait for any telephone call. After a couple of days one Friday afternoon at 2.00 –in order to disable the Eritrean air power, 2 Ethiopian migs dropped bombs in the foyer to coincide with the time when the members of the air force stay until they go to different assignments. No one was killed except two cleaners. Had they been there they would have been wiped out and with them the young Eritrean air force. PFDJ made sure that the people of Eritrea did not capture his genius- that entitled him a distinguished Eritrean hero for saving the air-force (4)
As part of the commemoration of International women’s day, the network of Eritrean women in the United Kingdom campaigned to end the gross human rights violations in Eritrea. The focus of the campaign is to narrate the sea of misery the people of Eritrea are undergoing on the dangerous journey they take to freedom in order to escape repression. They face torture, kidnapping by traffickers – death in the Libyan Desert, the drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, and languishing in refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia, and the persecution in Israel as infiltrators and not refugges.
- The Network of Eritrean women launched the International women’s day in London on March 20, 2016. Khedijah Ali Mohamed gave an account of the nature of the double oppression of women and summary of their activities and the way forward. She also highlighted their link with “WOMENS’S ITERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACEA @ FREEDOM (WILPF). Elsa Chyrum explained that the Eritrean Government is releasing Djibouti’s prisons from Eritrea but the issues of Eritreans soldiers imprisoned in Djibouti is not mentioned. She suggested to the audience to launch a campaign that they are handed over to UNHCR
- In WOW supported event on 12/03/2016 at South Bank Centre – senior member of Network of Eritrean women in Europe, Dr Sara Ogbai gave a lengthy talk. The event was titled “WOMEN CROSSING BORDERS”. Dr Sarah explained the reason Eritrean women and girls are crossing the border out of Eritrea and the life threatening journey they take to countries that give them protection
- On 11/03/2016 evening as part of the International Women day the “Women on the move award winners” The Eritrean SEADA FEADU was awarded “Young Woman of the Year” at the London Festival Hall. The Hall was packed with mostly with women but also men from all walks of life – many of them local journalist – and as a result – Eritrea will be known more and more. Seada became involved with Young Roots and soon started volunteering to help other accompanied asylum-seekers children
Eritrean women in many cities in the West in Dallas USA – Norway – Bergen Sweden etc. have celebrated international women day. In such occasions they pledge to rise up, stand up and fight for the right of women subjected to double oppression by the Eritrean Government. They call the international community to condemn the Government and request the release of all the women and other prisoners of conscience.
Baroness Glynes Kinnock – of Holly – the persistent fighter- against the excess of human rights violation in Eritrea appealed for the release of Aster Fitsehasion and her colleagues in the commemoration of International women’s day- few years ago. Baroness met Aster when she visited Eritrea in 1987 in her capacity of Chairman of the charity “War on Want”- Glynes has a big heart for the people of Eritrea and she still continues in the fight to end repression. Together with Penny Cook MP she is the founder of APPA (All-Parliamentary Party Group) on Eritrea.
- The women combatants: as soon as they joined the EPLF they were trained in women only setting with experienced fighter mentoring them. The mentor was a woman. By training alone they gain self- confidence and develop solidarity among each other.
- Young girl operating – machine tool in camouflaged house.
- Nebiat was a driver: Driving Lorries was hard because most of the movements were during the night and there are times that they travel without light so the Ethiopian air-force on do not locater them and bomb them. The 5 women fathers work in different areas in OROTA-
- Habtezion Hadgu: We had a long conversation in a funeral of the father of his second wife in a cemetery used by the people of Arabate Asmara– A community north of Asmara where I was born. He told me during the bombing no air force personnel was in the base including me. I rushed to the base loaded the fighter plane with bombs – penetrated Ethiopian airspace and bombed the Mekele Air-force base. He then said the Ethiopians will try again tomorrow to disable the air force and ordered anti-aircraft guns to be deployed. As he said about 10.00 am Ethiopian bombers came and were met with unexpected shootings one was shot down and the pilot parachuted to safety. He was captured. He was captain Bezabeh Petros – who knows the base inside out because he was there to help in the formation of the young Eritrean air-force as a technical aid and a teacher in Asmara. Habtzion said he must have masterminded the plan. After peace was signed exchange of prisoners was followed, there was no Bezabh Petros.
- Seadi Fecadu: She has become a role model for young refugees in the UK.