Written by Hanna Kebede Switzerland /12 October 2009
The new Ethiopian women….. Shoulder to shoulder suffering the blows of dictatorship. What do you know about women's struggle in Ethiopia?
Injustice in Ethiopia is everywhere and it is an astounding testimony of EPRDF arrogance. How they seem to believe they can continue to operate as they please within their self established ¨culture of impunity¨ even boldly imprisoning leaders on absurd grounds such as Birtukan. Let 2009 be the year we say, ¨ we have had enough! ¨
Birtukan has modeled courage and conviction. I do think she is asking the Ethiopian people to personally rescue her; but instead, on behalf of others, she is challenged. This corrupt system knew that she would be imprisoned, but her goal is bigger than her own personal freedom or she could have stayed in Europe or recanted her statement. Now, as a known public leader, she has called international attention to the fact that there is no freedom in Ethiopia.
It is surprising that some have been blaming her, the victim, for her own imprisonment, but that is probably out of guilt or fear for not demonstrating the same moral courage. Instead, I am convinced that selfless and brave actions. The symbol of all political prisoners in Ethiopia today is Birtukan Mideksa. It could be said Birtukan is the accidental heroine in our struggle against dictatorship. She is a young woman in her mid-thirties, and a single mother with a four-year old daughter. She is soft spoken and humble, analytical and measured in her speech. She studied law and became a judge.
Birtukan represents the best of the best generation of Ethiopia, the young woman and men who are destined by history to rescue Ethiopia from the darkness of dictatorship and deliver her to the bright sunlight of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Thousands of women took part, young and old many were sacrificed. Ethiopian women have a long history of struggle that gave birth to their massive involvement and participation in recent times. Many mothers had been imprisoned, tortured and humiliated refusing to give-up their children or even for some going as far as voicing their opinion in public. Even during the rule of today's dictators some mothers had refused in public to participate in the masquerade of those who wanted to exploit their loss and grief by stating the fact that many of Ethiopia's children do not still have the right to comeback home.
The struggle of Ethiopian women cannot be waged through imitation. Ethiopian women have struggled in the past and are still trying their very best. Birtukan represents the best of the best generation of Ethiopia. The young women and men are destined by history to rescue Ethiopia from the darkness of dictatorship and deliver her to the bright sunlight of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Let us build a free democratic society that is inclusive and caring. Let us genuinely respect and preserve diverse cultures allowing them to with the dynamics of time. Let us call Ethiopia a blessed land for all ethnic groups. Let us care of the unborn to come to a society of harmony, mutual respect and prosperity under the supreme rule of law.
Let us work for building a strong and powerful Ethiopia that will be respected in the world. The legendary judge Birtukan Mideksa and all political prisoners must be free!
How can we ensure that political prisoners are not tortured, mistreated, abused and dehumanized?
According to a 2008 report by Col. Michael Dewars, conditions inside Ethiopian prisons are appalling, ¨ possibly the worst in the world. The 2008 U.S state department Human Rights Report described prison conditions as follows:
Prison and pretrial detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Severe overcrowding was a problem Prisoners often had less than 22 square feet of sleeping space, a room that could contain up to 200 persons, and sleeping in rotations was not uncommon in regional prison maintenance. Medical care was unreliable in federal prisons and almost nonexistent in regional prisons.
In detention centers, police often physically abused detainees. Authorities generally permitted visitors but sometimes arbitrarily denied them access to detainees.
In some cases family visits to political prisoners were restricted to a few per year. While statistics were unavailable, there were some deaths in prison due to illness and poor health care. Prison officials were not forthcoming with reports of such deaths.
Campaigning for the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia
We need to undertake a campaign for the release of political prisoners in Ethiopia. This campaign is a moral undertaking. It is a campaign to bring about external pressure on the ruthless dictators to improve the prison conditions for these prisoners and to gain their eventual release. Such a campaign will not be easy, and we should not expect quick results. Most importantly, we must begin the effort with a clear and realistic understanding of certain fundamental facts about the dictators who maintain prison nation. We can't do it alone. Let us work together.
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